"It's only going to get worse now."
What do you get when you mix talented actors with a topsy-turvy script aiming to be like David Fincher but sadly resulting in a convoluted thriller not worth its puzzling title?
"Reptile," the feature film directorial debut from music video talent Grant Singer, is not worth its runtime. The procedural detective drama stars a crop of actors any first-time director would kill for: Benicio Del Toro, Alicia Silverstone, Justin Timberlake, Frances Fisher, Eric Bogosian, Domenick Lombardozzi, Karl Glusman, Ato Essandoh, and the consistently exceptional Michael Pitt. Written by Singer, Del Toro, and Benjamin Brewer, the movie will hit Netflix in October but had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
It didn't go well.
Benicio Del Toro stars as Tom Nichols, a homicide detective with a healthy income and a patient wife, Judy (Silverstone). Tom and Judy enjoy cutting a rug while line dancing in their local New England bar, accompanied by friends and fellow police officers. Partnered with veteran Captain Robert Allen (Bogosian) and slimy officer Wally (Lombardozzi), Nichols gets in over his head while investigating the murder of a local real estate agent. He questions the realtor's live-in boyfriend, Will Grady (Timberlake), and Grady's mother, Camille (Fisher), a family of wealth and notoriety. The case becomes front page news a la "Gone Girl," although this time around, the girl is actually dead.
An intriguing premise to start the film downgrades fast with the introduction of a possible drug trafficking connection and too many suspects to mention. Some of these suspects include the victim's ex-husband (Glusman), Will Grady, for obvious reasons, and a weird, greasy neighbor (Pitt) with an ax to grind against the Grady family. Above all else, we learn that Nichols is not exactly the best cop on the force, dirty even. The Grady family might be hiding more than most realtors do, and Nichols' checkered past might complicate matters as he tries to tie up loose ends and arrest the culprit as soon as humanly possible.
Gritty and determined, Nichols should be a compelling character to root for. Benicio Del Toro charms the audience with his dry smile and witty comebacks, but the character slides away, given that his wife is more understanding than he is. Judy is a force to be reckoned with, and her true crime podcast knowledge of police ethics and statistics could be studied at the collegiate level. While at a hoedown, Judy can offer advice like, "50% of female victims are killed by their exes" in between do-si-dos. Why is she not officially investigating this case along with her husband? He's too focused on remodeling the house and getting a kitchen faucet that turns on and off with a wave of his hand.
Yes, this movie has everything: murder, drugs, and Kohler appliances.
By the time we reach what should be an epic conclusion to "Reptile," it's as if the writers decided to figuratively throw everything but the kitchen sink at the climax. Attempting to be a sleek thriller befitting of "The Departed," the movie sputters out of control set to the tune of an ear-pinching score by Yair Elazar Glotman. The ensemble cast does their best to keep up with the twists and turns of police corruption and a labyrinth of entanglements, but it's simply impossible.
The only saving grace is Alicia Silverstone, doing some of her best acting work in this sorry sack of a project. Complex and weirdly subtle, Judy shouldn't be a character that stands out amongst the sea of testosterone encapsulating this drama, but Silverstone works her magic to make Judy her own. What should be a film that makes co-writer, executive producer, and lead actor Del Toro comparable to Brad Pitt in "Seven," Silverstone leaves him in the dust. She thrusts her talent into the spotlight with even the simplest smirks and proficiency.
Unfortunately for "Reptile," it's just not enough. Skip this one, please.
Ticket Rating: 🎟🎟