Ever seen a movie that made no sense? Hollywood goes to extraordinary lengths to make Serenity and its feature films not only palatable, but also coherent for its audiences. After all, they want us to vicariously participate in the plot and enjoy the heroic triumph of good over evil.  Occasionally, even an incoherent catastrophe, like “Crank 2: High Voltage” (2009), qualifies as entertaining, especially since the filmmakers refused to take themselves seriously.  Oodles of horror chillers make little sense because their logic is hopelessly flawed. In “Tokyo Gore Police” (2008), a mysterious virus from outer space distorts human physiography; when a woman loses her legs, the mutated jaws of a ravenous crocodile replace them!  Another ‘off-the-wall’ epic “Enter the Void” (2009) depicts the demise of a French drug dealer living in Tokyo.  After he is shot to death, his soul hovers above his head and then like a drone keeps track of his sister who dances nude in a Japanese strip club.

Sometimes in a senseless movie, the protagonist is dead from the get-go, but we’re left in the dark about it until the very end.  The indie cult hit “Carnival of Souls” (1962) pioneered the tale of a heroine who had been dead the entire time.  Naturally, this revelation arrives like a mind-blowing surprise!  “Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors” (1965) followed “Carnival of Souls,” but it concerned people on a train who had already died in a train wreck.  For the record, many films have recycled this last-minute shock premise, among them “High Plains Drifter” (1973), Jacob’s Ladder” (1990), “Campfire Tales” (1997), “The Sixth Sense” (1999) ,“The Others” (2001), “The Tale of Two Sisters” (2003), “Atonement” (2007), the Anne Hathaway movie “Passengers” (2008), “The Uninvited” (2009), and “The Lovely Bones” (2009). “Redemption” writer & director Steven Knight’s picturesque but anticlimactic hokum “Serenity” (* OUT OF ****) pulls the same stunt.  Mind you, no spooks show up to scare us, because it is a hallucination of a character’s warped imagination.

None of the main characters in “Serenity” are remotely sympathetic. Matthew McConaughey plays rum-soaked charter boat skipper Baker Dill who lives to land a legendary tuna.  He has even given it a symbolic name: ‘Justice.’ When another fisherman hooks this tuna, Baker pulls a knife on the guy and confiscates  his rod and reel. Baker’s preoccupation with this tuna approaches Captain Ahab’s obsession with harpooning Herman Melville’s great white whale Moby Dick.  Anne Hathaway plays Baker’s alluring ex-wife Karen.  This desperate femme fatale offers him $10-million in cash to feed her affluent but abusive husband to the sharks.  Jason Clarke plays Karen’s villainous husband Zariakas who terrorizes not only her but also their young son Patrick.  Rude, crude and lewd, he is a guy who feels entitled to everything he wants.

Meanwhile, the rest of the “Serenity” characters loiter on the periphery.  Diane Lane of “Justice League” plays Constance, a cougar who not only pays Baker for sex but also to find her lost black cat.  Djimon Hounsou of “Gladiator” plays Baker’s long-suffering deck hand Duke. Baker believes Duke has cursed him with nothing but bad luck since Duke’s wife died.  Duke warns Baker not to murder Frank.  Duke ranks as the most sympathetic character. An outsider, Reid Miller (Jeremy Strong of “Zero Dark Thirty”) enters Plymouth Island, because he believes he can help Baker catch his tuna. More enigmatic than everybody else is Rafael Sayegh as Patrick, the reclusive teen who holes up 24/7 in his room on his computer.  “Serenity” unfolds in a make-believe enclave called Plymouth Island, but this Plymouth is located nowhere near Massachusetts.  If the strange license tags on Baker’s truck indicate anything, Plymouth Island may have the Caribbean lapping at its shores.  Baker’s deep-sea fishing boat is named ‘Serenity,’ but it doesn’t provide Baker with a sense of serenity.  You’d think from the tropical setting of “Serenity” that you were watching an adaptation of an Ernst Hemingway novel since it focuses on a loner with fishing boat who gets himself in trouble.  Ultimately, little that you see in “Serenity” contains a shred of credibility.  Although it channels film noir classics, such as “Double Indemnity” (1944), “Body Heat” (1981) and “Out of Time” (2003) with its steamy sex and murderous agenda, “Serenity” emerges as a dreary morality tale about adultery and murder.  Ultimately, deception and revenge propel the plot, but the filmmakers keep you in the dark about who craves vengeance.

Most movies feature straightforward plots, and you need not worry about characters who may not know they are dead. Writer & director Steven Knight complicates everything so thoroughly in “Serenity” with his artifice-driven screenplay that you have trouble navigating the conflicts.  Is it a grim murder yarn about an ex-husband conspiring to kill his ex-wife’s second husband?  Or is it the murky psychological fantasy of a distraught teenager who hates his stepfather?  Just about every time we’re shown Patrick, he is gaming on his computer, and this fuels the antagonistic relationship that he has with his stepdad.  Eventually, he must commit himself to action and confront reality.  Meantime, Baker has no memory of having a son, while Patrick dreams of reuniting with him.  Confusing?  When Knight doesn’t make “Serenity” difficult to understand,  he squanders time on a superfluous subplot about Baker’s tuna.  A decorated soldier, Baker died a patriot’s death overseas in a U.S. Army combat zone.  Meaning, he didn’t live long enough to own a deep-sea charter boat, much less take tourists on fishing safaris!  Since he never lived in Plymouth Island, he couldn’t have helped Karen deep-six Frank.  Sometimes, Patrick’s imagination descends into voyeurism.  He imagines Baker wallowing in a steamy affair with a cougar who treats his father like the catch of the day!  The only thing in Patrick’s imagination that isn’t phony is his abject fear of Frank.  The final quarter hour delivers an ending that literally feels like a rug has been pulled out from under you.

Altogether, “Serenity” plays mindless head games that will drive you bonkers! Check out other movie reviews here:



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