'Reminiscence' is a Mystery with Very Little in Mind

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.5/5.0
Rating: 2.5/5.0

CHICAGO – “Reminiscence” is a futuristic noir with precious little on its mind. Instead of ideas, this sci-fi thriller offers half remembered cop movie cliches and hard boiled detective narration that’s just barely a step above Harrison Ford’s in the original cut of “Blade Runner.”

Hugh Jackman is Nick, a former cop and former soldier in the not too distant future. He is now a private detective making a living off memories. He searches through people’s memories courtesy of an isolation tank full of water that allows the subject to relive the memories all over again, and presents them in a hologram so Jackman and his overworked assistant Watts (Thandiwe Newton) can pour over clues.

Photo credit: Warner Bros.

As is often the case in films like these our futuristic gumshoe meets a femme fatale (Rebecca Ferguson) who walks in ostensibly just to help her find a set of lost keys. Soon she seduces him and then raids his vault to steal a very specific memory that someone very powerful would rather have forgotten forever. And thus, the film and its hardboiled hero set off on a journey to even the score and find out the truth about this mystery woman.

Hugh Jackman is a talented actor, but he’s not quite the Philip Marlowe type. He’s in more of the veins-popping-out-of-his-neck “Wolverine rage” mode for much of this, and his narration has some flowery prose and turns of phrase but too often lands with a thud instead of a pow. Rebecca Ferguson, who has been so good in the Mission Impossible films, doesn’t make much more than a glancing impact.

The film’s high point is simply the look of the picture. Set in the not-too-distant future, where the effects of climate change have taken their toll, most of the city of Miami is either sunk or sinking. So each day, the streets look like there’s just been a hard rain and the sewers are backed up creating a couple of inches of standing water at all times. The look is interesting but it feels shallow. The wetter the neighborhood, the poorer it is …while the rich are the only ones who can afford to live on dry land, and they’ve built dams to make sure it stays that way. But despite all this the film doesn’t create much of a sandbox to explore. There’s also a subplot involving a dying land baron, social unrest over poor living conditions and his greedy relatives. This feels half baked, and the movie’s social commentary has all the subtlety of an anvil to the forehead.

From the moment she walks in, everyone In the theater or watching from home can see Ferguson’s character is trouble, but for some reason it takes Jackman the rest of the movie to figure it out. And then the film throws in a truly ridiculous ending, which suggests a focus group that was obsessed with trying to have things both ways … where bad people aren’t so bad after all. So the conflicted main characters aren’t all that conflicted after all, and everyone gets some dignity and a happy ending.

Rebecca Ferguson and Hugh Jackman in ‘Reminiscence
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Christopher Nolan took an exciting journey into the crazy world of memories by turning “Inception” into a heist film … allowing him to ask thoughtful questions while delivering visceral thrills in its puzzle box of a blockbuster. His sister in law – Lisa Joy – who wrote and directed “Reminiscence,” can’t quite muster the task. The film feels both overly complicated and yet simplistic.

One problem is that the film is that it feels overstuffed and rushed. No plot development has a chance to pack much of a punch, or to breathe. It’s just clunky exposition that gets shoved away and evaporates almost as soon as it comes out of the characters mouths. And it still manages – despite the indifferently staged warehouse fistfights – to be boring and forgettable.

“Reminiscence” is in theaters and HBO Max on August 20th. Featuring Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Daniel Wu and Marina de Tavira. Written and directed by Lisa Joy. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com contributor Spike Walters


© 2021 Spike Walters, HollywoodChicago.com

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