Unfortunately, not even Benicio Del Toro could save this film. Not even an against type performance from Justin Timberlake could either. In fact, Reptile was doomed from the start.
Opening the film is the textbook approach for a crime thriller. We see suspect number one, Will Grady (Timberlake), arguing with his girlfriend, Summer (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz). The latter then has a mysterious conversation with a friend about "getting caught." Summer's last appearance on screen is at a house showing for Grady's real estate company where she finds a shed snake skin (oh sweet symbolism!). Later on, Will walks in to check on her, only to find her brutally murdered.
In most cases, this introduction would work quite well. A couple of mysterious conversations including an argument between lovers, spark some curiosity in the viewer. This would especially be the case when the entire plot of the film circles around Del Toro's Detective Nichols working tirelessly to find who is behind the murder of Summer. Unfortunately, the script tries way too hard to manufacture the thrilling mystery behind the crime with poorly written characters.
Outside of Del Toro's Detective Nichols and his wife Judy (Alicia Silverstone), the characters in Reptile are ineffective in raising the stakes of the plot. More often than not they bog down the the film's pulse, providing mundane comments pushing forward an agenda of blandness. One of Nichols' co-officers in the narcotics department, Wally (Domenick Lombardozzi), unwillingly enters the investigation after Nichols notices a reappearance of confiscated heroin. Something that he would solely be responsible for. Now something like this should establish a thrill for the viewer. A disconnect of information between characters that we're privy to is something that a script should lean into to really crank up the blood pressure. However, instead of that, we get really clunky, thinly veiled threats from Wally to Nichols as he's understandably on his trail. At one point Wally tries to bribe Nichols with a watch in what was just a really poorly written exchange of words. Especially when it's over a group of friends playing cards? It was a strange setting to casually threaten a coworker. However, the real proof of my point comes in a three-minute scene where Wally sits down across from Nichols and recites song lyrics that pointedly, actually explicitly refer to Nichols not doing what he's supposed to be doing.
The scene felt out of place, almost shoehorned into the story as a means to spin the film's own wheels. Manufacturing this fake over-the-top drama between these two, who mind you, you don't really care about their relationship? As I mentioned, the characters are poorly written with little to no substance. The best-written relationship is between Nichols and his wife Judy, both of whom also give the two best performances in Del Toro and Silverstone. Everyone else is just... boring? I didn't squirm at all at the thought of Judy's uncle, Captain Allen (Eric Bogosian), being in on the scandal because I couldn't care less about him in this story. The same goes for Wally and whoever else was in the film, honestly I lost track.
I guess all of this is to say that I was not at the edge of my seat at any point in this film. Reptile tries way too hard to capture that thrill of a murder mystery. There are too many pointless scenes and conversations that are meant to drum up suspense. Instead, it needlessly extends the runtime and turns the film into a drab mess.
Unfortunately, Grant Singer's feature film directorial debut falls flat amidst these aforementioned blunders. However, the saving grace is Reptile is another great stylistic entry in cinematographer Mike Gioulakis' filmography! His sleek, lingering camera movements give a great feel to the style of the film and remind me of his amazing work in prior films such as It Follows and Old.
I was recently in Chicago spending some quality time with our lovely Hopster, and during that time I tried some incredible beer. One being the perfect name to pair with this film, Lizard King by Pipeworks Brewing Company. However, since the name Reptile has literally 0 bearing on the actual film, I felt as though this pairing would be too similar to the actual movie.
Remember that shed snake skin I mentioned that was supposed to be symbolism?? Well, apparently the movie was supposed to have this whole thematic piece about characters shedding their skin and exposing their true selves. It's a total crock of shit. Nobody in this film did anything outside of your expectations of them within the immediate five minutes after their introduction. As far as I'm concerned, this movie could've been called Platypus and made just as much sense.
Anyway, this is why I won't subject you to such pandering pairings. But I will say go try Lizard King if you can, it's delicious. This movie, with its October release and spooky season in full swing, deserves a scrumptious pumpkin ale to warm your soul. My beloved, and oft-visited, Reuben's Brews supplied me with Autumn Harvest an imperial pumpkin ale. Perfect for the occasion of relaxing on your couch while the Seattle rain rolls in for the late fall/winter months. The Autumn Harvest boasts a strong 8.7% but you never get a boozy taste, instead, it has a very smooth pumpkin and malt combination that is delicately balanced. I should say it's not too sweet, and not too malty, add in some gentle bitterness and you're a nice fire away from having the best night ever maybe??
Well, only if you pick a better movie than Reptile.