Sometimes you can look at a cast list for a film, read the synopsis and immediately be onboard with what you are about to watch.
That can set up expectations for something that the film simply cannot deliver on, and that is the territory that Reptile falls into.
Reptile focuses on Tom Nichols (Benicio Del Toro) as he is the lead investigator of Summer’s (Matilda Lutz) brutal murder. Her boyfriend, Will Grady (Justin Timberlake), initially discovers the body. He is a real estate shark who buys foreclosed houses and flips them on the market with Summer as he’s trying to continue building his mother Camille’s (Frances Fisher) legacy. This inevitably makes Will suspect number one, but Nichols thinks there’s more to the story. He wants to actually find the person responsible as he tries to untangle this mystery of deceit and chaos.
While the premise is intriguing, the writing is ultimately weak and predictable which just adds fuel to the unfortunately realities of some really strange supporting performances . Which makes it all the more surprising that Del Toro in the leading role manages to keep us all engaged enough with the procedural nature of the story.
With it’s constant pace and tone, Co-Writer/Director Grant Singer keeps audiences on their toes as they try to figure out who committed the murder, but because of the clumsy way the characters are written most audiences can most likely figure out who is responsible.
Singer, Benjamin Brewer and Benicio Del Toro all co-wrote the script together and its clear they’re inspired by films Prisoners and Zodiac. That being said, none of them have the nuance to create a world so tense and undiscoverable with whose behind the murder and the sheer disturbing nature of the world.
Justin Timberlake has proven that he can act in the past, however his performance in Reptile is something so shockingly atrocious it’s as if he didn’t want to be part of the project in the first place. Sure, he’s playing a sleaze bag, who realistically only cares about himself and his pocketbook, but he comes off so bland and uninspired that we just end up bored. Plus, Alicia Silverstone, who plays Judy Nichols really feels like an afterthought and is majorly underutilized.
Thankfully it’s Del Toro, who is the saving grace here as he makes every moment he’s in worth watching, ironically elevating himself above the mediocre material that had a hand in writing. It’s his dedication to the craft as one of the best working actors today that helps Reptile stay engaging despite some of it’s very obvious flaws.
Reptile is in theatres now for a limited run before it launches worldwide on Netflix on September 29th.
- Rated: R
- Genre: crime, Drama, Thriller
- Release Date: 9/29/2023
- Directed by: Grant Singer
- Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Benicio del Toro, Justin Timberlake
- Produced by: Molly Smith, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill
- Written by: Benicio del Toro, Benjamin Brewer, Grant Singer
- Studio: Black Label Media