Some films work better in theory than in practice; Naked Singularity is one such project. On paper, this comedy-drama has all the ingredients to be fantastic. Its premise – a disillusioned public defender stages a heist using intel from one of his clients – is attention-grabbing. The film’s central contention is that the broken American justice system would rather incarcerate marginalized people than help them. This is a topical and accurate message. It also boasts a dynamite cast, helmed by charismatic young performers John Boyega and Olivia Cooke. But Naked Singularity is ultimately less than the sum of its parts…
The feature debut of director Chase Palmer, Naked Singularity offers some moments of genuine watchability. The courtroom scenes riveted me. There, Boyega’s character, Casi, defends his legal aid clients in front of a persnickety judge. Linda Lavin plays the judge in a pitch-perfect performance. She cares about as much about justice as you care about your least favourite cousin’s wedding plans. There could have been a promising legal drama here. But unfortunately, undermining that is a script that wants to be too many things. A script wants to do these things all at once.
The film’s heist is the brainchild of Lea (Olivia Cooke), a beautiful young woman with a troubled past. After growing up in foster care, Lea ended up in the penal system. She is trying to get her life on track; however, Lea explains it’s hard to rebuild your life with a criminal record and few funds in your bank account. She’s exactly the sort of client Casi believes deserves a second chance. But fighting doggedly for his clients is getting the newbie lawyer in trouble. On the verge of disbarment, Casi has little left to lose. But where the film goes astray expecting us to believe certain things. That Lea would motivate him to steal millions of dollars from a drug cartel, whose clutches Lea finds herself in.
Added to the lukewarm heist plot is a series of tedious, masturbatory conversations about physics and philosophy. Now, I like – and regularly contemplate – both physics and philosophy, but Naked Singularity‘s affected conversations about these subjects are a chore to watch; they sound like a dull undergraduate essay read aloud.
Ultimately, Naked Singularity is a heart-breaking kind of mediocre movie, one that so easily could have been great. A few tweaks here and there might have made all the differences.
- Rated: R
- Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
- Directed by: Chase Palmer
- Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Ed Skrien, John Boyega, Kyle Mooney, Linda Lavin, Olivia Cooke, Robert Christopher Riley, Tim Blake Nelson
- Produced by: Ross Jacobson
- Written by: Chase Palmer, David Matthews, Sergio De La Pava
- Studio: 3311 Productions, Anton, Scott Free Productions, Wolf Films