Released: 20th February
Seen: 23rd March
In 2005, Joss Whedon was given the chance to adapt his cult hit series Firefly into a feature-length film. The film, Serenity, was an intense action sci-fi film where the crew of a spaceship tried to find out why one of them is being chased by an operative who is tasked with killing them. It’s a fascinating film that’s gloriously shot and wonderfully written with some really great action set pieces and its criminally underrated… so it really upsets me that now when you Google that film’s title, you’re going to first have to come across the 2019 movie of the same name that’s so hilariously bad that it’s almost art.
Serenity follows Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey), a fisherman with an obsession over a single fish that keeps getting away. That fish is named, for some reason, Justice and every day Baker tries to catch him, even if that means brandishing knives at people who paid him to take them out fishing. Since he keeps attacking assorted potential customers, he has to supplement his fishing trips by being a hooker for a woman named Constance (Diane Lane) who not only pays him for sex but also constantly loses her cat and Baker keeps having to bring it back (I swear this is actually an important bit of info that they bring up repeatedly). One day while working on his boat, Baker’s ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) turns up with a simple request… kill her husband, Frank (Jason Clarke) in exchange for $10 million because Frank is violently abusive and she needs to protect her son, who is also Baker’s son. There’s then a huge twist halfway through that I won’t spoil, but it flips everything on its head and makes it even stupider than I’m sure it sounded when you read this description.
The single sentence pitch for this film probably went something along the lines of “Ahab from Moby Dick stumbles drunkenly into the plot of Double Indemnity” and the outcome is exactly as bad as that would suggest. The film is bizarre even before the brain-breaking twist at the 50-minute mark that renders the film an unsalvageable mess of attempted high-concept storytelling that is really just a writer’s vain attempt to make his story seem smarter than it actually is. It’s almost like we’re watching several different films being sewn together by a seamstress who’s had a little too much to drink. Baker Dill is from a completely different movie than the Karen character, and neither one of them belong in the latter half of the movie that is so off the walls that I wouldn’t even know how to describe it even if I was going to spoil the film for you. It’s a jumbled mess of ideas that were thrown together in a gigantic pot in hopes that, somehow, there would be a great film at the end of it. Instead, we get this weird concoction of a film where people spout incomprehensible dialogue and every 15 minutes is punctuated by a flaccid excuse for McConaughey to remove his shirt, an action that almost feels contractually obligated.
When you’re done being baffled by the dialogue, character and story choices that have been made, you then have to contend with the sound cues that someone decided to use. Several shots where the camera rotates around a character a punctuated by a “Whoosh” sound effect for no reason other than “the camera is moving so I guess I better do a sound thing now”. Then there are weird choices like having tense music play before any actual tension turns up or having characters vanish, only to reappear to say a line on camera before vanishing again. There are the CGI sharks that make the sharks in Sharknado look like they belong in an aquarium and so many bad lines of dialogue. Lines so bad that I’m just going to type several of them out for your amusement because I can’t think of a good enough description to explain how bad they are
“There appears to be a 20-second discrepancy in my allotted schedule”
“Catch the fish in your head, that is the rule. Do not kill the man”
“Whenever I’m around fishermen, I wish I had bigger hands”
“Do you even know why you say things?”
That’s really a series of lines of dialogue that people wrote in an actual script and then other people said on camera in a movie that cost real-world money and stars several Oscar winners… just let that information sit, for a moment.
This film exists, people made this. I haven’t even told you what the big twist is and I promise you, that twist is even dumber than the parts of the movie I’ve described. It’s a stupid and poorly assembled film that just doesn’t work… unless you really want a new movie to laugh at with some mates. While I cannot suggest you go see this film because it’s good, I can absolutely see how this would be a fun one to rent with some friends, order in and just laugh and mock every single thing that happens. It’s a bad movie but the badness hit’s that sweet spot of being entertaining… still shockingly bad though, like bad enough that Oscars should be revoked.