Along with Mike Whitehill and David Briggs, Steven Knight created the game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? He’s also written plenty of screenplays — he contributed to Eastern Promises and Shutter Island, which this movie feels like the Italian ripoff of — and wrote and directed the films Locke and Hummingbird. None of these things will prepare you for this complete and utter grease fire of a movie.
Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey, who should know better) is a fishing boat captain who lives off the coast of Florida on Plymouth Island, yet all the steering wheels are on the wrong side of the cars. He spends most of his days drunk or out on the ocean, hunting an elusive tuna named Justice.
That all changes when his ex-wife Karen Zariakas (Anne Hathaway, who should know better) shows up and begs him to save their son from her abusive husband Frank (Jason Clarke, who was in Chappaquiddick as Ted Kennedy, another excoriable bit of Hollywood dross), giving hi $10 million dollars to feed the man to the sharks. This seems like an exorbitant figure and an overly elaborate plan, but don’t worry. This film is about to go off the rails in a way that few do.
Seriously, if you felt like watching this movie, you should stop reading right now.
The truth is, DIll — who is really John Mason — was really killed in Iraq and is now a video game character in a game that his son Patrick has designed based on the one memory he has of his father. Now that he’s stuck with a stepfather that beats his mom and attacks him, the game changes to one where Dill or Mason or whatever must kill the new dad. That means that everyone else in town, from Djimon Hounsou’s Duke to Diane Lane’s Constance, are all non-player characters.
Just before virtual dad is about to be killed by the monstrous tuna, the real Patrick stabs his real stepdad with his real dead dad’s knife. He is released into custody before a trial and designs a new game where he just hangs out with his dad.
I made none of that up. This all really happens in this bizarre film noir with people that have no understanding of the genre. Also, if the son designed this game, does he really want to see his dad’s bare ass double digit times? Does he want his virtual dad to get with his virtual mom and sail the seas of mayonnaise on a houseboat together? Who can say!
No matter how bad a movie is, it usually gets millions of dollars’ worth of promotion. The test screenings for this film were so bad that Serenity‘s distributor Aviron canceled a full campaign, even after all of the actors agreed to a full press junket as part of the contracts. According to a Deadline Hollywood article, only nine TV spots aired in the middle of the night in obscure cities, one assumes only to answer some contract or requirements. That means that this movie went up to 2,500 screens with no one knowing a single thing about it.
Aviron said in a statement: “As much as we love this film and still hope it finds its audience, we tested and retested the film — with audiences and critics alike — and sadly, the data demonstrated that the film was not going to be able to perform at our initial expectations, so we adjusted our budget and marketing tactics accordingly.”
I really can’t explain just how bad this movie is, one that starts as a Body Heat style neo-noir and somehow becomes the redneck Matrix while at the same time threatening to become a shark week movie. Compounding the pain, my wife — who had wanted to see this — fell asleep an hour in and that meant that I had to soldier on alone.
If you’re as dumb as me, you can watch this on Amazon Prime.