Getting an early jump on next year’s Razzie competition is Serenity, starring Matthew McConaughey as a charter boat captain lured into a murder plot.
The fact that it’s a Razzie contender, of course, is no reason not to see it. In fact it could be an inducement — Razzie movies can be quite fun. And the commercials suggest that Serenity could be the kind of midwinter time-waster suited to the season — it’s January, Serenity is subtropical and sleazy, and McConaughey sets a career mark for full dorsal nudity, if you’re into that sort of thing.
My boss, for instance, was excited to see what she regarded as a “redneck Double Indemnity,” a fair description of what we appear to be faced with in the early scenes.
McConaughey plays somewhere-off-the-coast-of-Florida fishing charter operator Baker Dill, a name that perhaps reflects the fact that he needs dough and is often paired with tuna. Baker takes potbellied tourists on fishing trips, but he doesn’t make any money at it because when a big tuna is hooked, he grabs the rod from clients and lands the fish himself (he has an Ahab-like obsession with a local bluefin).
Baker drinks up remaining revenue in the form of rum, to the chagrin of his first mate (Djimon Hounsou!) and makes ends meet as a gigolo — his favorite client is a wealthy local woman played by Diane Lane.
Short on cash and ethics, Baker is approached by ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway), currently married to an abusive ogre (Jason Clarke), who beats her and terrorizes the son she had with Baker.
Of course, nothing is what it seems, and the stage is set for some kind of noirish twist that genre vets can try to guess.
Well, they’re not going to. The twist in Serenity has not much to do with noir conventions. In fact, it has not much to do with its own internal logic (if Serenity can be said to have any). The movie’s obsession with Baker’s lusty adventures, for instance, takes on a rather perverse meaning in light of what the movie ultimately reveals.
Perhaps McConaughey senses this. Something about Serenity has brought out his dormant hamminess, and there are eccentric gestures here we haven’t seen since Reign of Fire.
Much of the desperate emoting has to do with the relationship Baker has with his estranged son. He’s called upon to suggest a psychic connection, in the same way he suggests a psychic connection to his Navigator in those Lincoln commercials. We don’t believe it, any more than we believe Hathaway is a blonde.
The script tries to help, suggesting that Baker is a seafaring loner with a poetic soul, but this is undercut when the movie cites quotes from his past, including: “with this stupid ring, I thee wed.”
With this stupid quote, I thee warn: This is pre-Oscar Matthew, circa Failure to Launch.
Directed by Steven Knight. With Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Djimon Hounsou and Jason Clarke. Distributed by Avrion.
Running time: 106 minutes
Parents guide: R, sex
Playing at: area theaters