Benicio Del Toro tries to thrive on a dull story.
“Reptile” is a murder mystery that looks and feels great (trying to enter David Fincher territory), but is missing the essence to make it thought-provoking. It has the right performances, particularly by leading man and co-writer Benicio Del Toro and a haunting score composed by Yair Elazar Glotman (“False Positive”). But the story never really elevates the main character the way it should. It’s like you’re eating a piece of chocolate, in which the filling isn’t as tasty as it should have been.
Del Toro plays a detective named Tom Nichols, who comes across the murder of a young realtor named Summer (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz). It couldn’t be her boyfriend Will (Justin Timberlake), who is also a realtor, since he was driving home with a friend during her murder. Although we can tell he’s done some dirty deeds, given his atmosphere. But other suspects include the victim’s ex-husband Sam (Karl Glusman), who collects human hair for his art, and a local creep named Eli Phillips (Michael Pitt), who blames Will and his business for the suicide of his father.
Tom is reaching a certain point in his life and career, when he begins to question his reality. He’s also haunted by various nightmares, one of which he can’t pull the trigger on his target, and another in which he is the target. But he’s still willing to go deeper in the case, which may not just be a murder mystery.
The cast also includes Alicia Silverstone as Tom’s wife Judy, Eric Bogosian as his MS-stricken boss, Ito Essandoh (“Django Unchained,” “Garden State”) as his partner, Domenick Lombardozzi as a fellow detective, and Frances Fisher as Will’s mother. The wife sticks by Tom during his investigation process, as well as his life drama, although more of her connection with him would have been more interesting.
Co-writer/director Grant Singer’s background consists of music videos (featuring Lorde, The Weeknd, and Sam Smith), and he makes his feature debut of “Reptile” look like a David Fincher movie. He has the right leading man, like Del Toro, who is able to adapt to the role of a harden detective trying to make sense of both sides of the equation: his reality and the main mystery. And he has the right supporting actors like Silverstone, Timberlake, Pitt, and Bogosian, who can use various tones within this particular genre.
But what I was really hoping for was a story that made sense, and actually tested our minds. It all becomes complicated with the murders, the drugs, the money games, and the people affected by all of them. These things can be handled well with the right ambiance and consistency, but it all tastes flat.
Making its way to Netflix, the movie is more of a hit-&-miss target with the hits being the actors and tone, ands the misses being the story. If I were to put them on a weighing scale, the story would be a bit lower to the ground. It was a close call, but I can’t quite recommend “Reptile.”
Streaming on Netflix
This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA strike