Goodness, there are no words that would accurately describe how ridiculously atrocious Serenity is. The film noir, which stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke, Djimon Honsou, Diane Lane and Jeremy Strong, is one of those pictures which is bad enough to be impressive. It sports a strong cast and that’s combined with the writing and directing talents of Steven Knight. Knight impressed with strong scripts for Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises, and he wrote and directed Tom Hardy in Locke, an interesting feature that successfully conveyed drama and intensity all while Hardy took a road trip and talked on his cell phone (for much of the film). Knight’s Dirty Pretty Things script earned him an Oscar nomination, so one would believe Serenity has the potential to be outstanding. The potential surely is there, but like former NBA first-round pick Sam Bowie, this is a bust that announced itself as such quickly and resoundingly.

When I say this is bad, I mean it’s bad. Serenity is bad enough to induce unintentional laughs. It’s bad enough to think the film’s a spoof and this must be a prank. It’s terrible enough to make you reconsider other terrible films and give them a second chance (huh, maybe Navy SEALs isn’t so bad). Serenity is bad enough to opt for a root canal instead. If you’ve seen 2017’s The Snowman, with Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson, then you’ll be able to comprehend how incredibly stupid Serenity is. What’s worse is that Serenity tries, with all its might, to play it straight. That means watching it is that much more excruciating, and may be bad enough to earn instant “so-bad-it’s-good” status.

I don’t believe I need to bring up Serenity’s story, because none of it matters. Besides, talking about it may “spoil” its many surprises. Yes, Serenity has surprises, many of which come in the form of twists that are both predicable and so farfetched that saying Knight “jumped the shark” would be underselling it. Personally, I don’t think a shark is big enough. With Serenity, Knight jumps blue whales, and does it multiple times.

But, hey, I owe you some sort of synopsis, so here goes. McConaughey is Baker Dill, a fisherman who’s hired by his ex-wife, Karen Zariakas (Hathaway), to take her current husband, Frank (Clarke), on a fishing trip and kill him. Karen will pay $10 million and Baker, who’s been down on his luck (and is seemingly losing his sanity) for years, may be able to turn his life around. Things are complicated since Baker and Karen have a son, but Baker’s initial reluctance becomes determination after meeting Frank and witnessing firsthand what a terrible person he is. Oh yeah, and Baker is simultaneously seeking out his Moby Dick – a giant tuna that’s eluded him on numerous occasions.

Like all bad films, much of the blame can be placed on a poor script. I’m not sure what Knight was thinking during his creative process, but he took a high concept film noir and tried to get cute. Things went off the rails early (you can sense he was setting up a “major” twist) and, instead of getting back on course, Knight steered straight into the disaster. He seemed hell bent on selling his twist, and must’ve legitimately thought it would reconcile all of the crap preceding it. But it arrived in the final act with a whimper, giving audiences enough time to mumble, “That’s it?”

Nothing is believable; nothing makes sense; not one thing is remotely interesting. Serenity isn’t even sexy – I’ve seen more steam coming off a bald man’s head on a chilly winter morning than anything McConaughey, Hathaway and Lane attempted. B-movies on Cinemax do a better job of selling sex, and those films know they’re bad. Serenity tries to be a serious thriller, but it’s a terrible one that needs to be seen to be believed.

1.5 stars out of 5


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