[Screen It]


(2019) (Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway) (R)

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Drama: A charter fishing boat captain gets a lucrative offer from his ex-wife to kill her abusive husband.
Baker Dill (MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY) is a military veteran who now lives on Plymouth Island working as a charter fishing boat captain alongside his first mate, Duke (DJIMON HOUNSOU). When not providing bedroom services to Constance (DIANE LANE), he's otherwise obsessed with catching a huge tuna that's eluded him for some time, much to the occasional detriment of his business. His obsession with that has even drawn an outsider, Reid Miller (JEREMY STRONG), to seek him out with a device that might make his fishing dream of landing the big one a reality.

But he gets a more lucrative offer when his ex-wife, Karen (ANNE HATHAWAY), shows up in town. She's now married to Frank (JASON CLARKE), an uber-wealthy but abusive man, particularly when he's been drinking which is occurring more often. Karen worries about her safety and that of her and Baker's 13-year-old son, Patrick (RAFAEL SAYEGH), who lives with them and deals with the turmoil by staying in his room playing video games of his own design.

Accordingly, Karen tells Baker she'll pay him $10 million if he'll take Frank out for a day of fishing, get him drunk, and then send him overboard to the sharks. Baker initially wants no part of this, but considering his poor financial situation and worrying about his son, he begins to consider taking her up on her offer.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
It used to be a running joke among film critics -- and perhaps regular moviegoers as well -- about whether the latest Matthew McConaughey movie would feature him shirtless. After all, the actor who initially made a big name for himself in romantic comedies often appeared sans a shirt in all of his buff glory.

And he did so to such a degree that people paying attention would wonder when that would exactly occur in his newest offerings. Considering his age at the time -- a ripe old 42 years -- many figured his swan song of such pec and abs barring would be the male stripper flick, "Magic Mike."

Well, dear readers and particularly fans of "Mr. Alight, Alright, Alright," fear not, for the now 49-year-old performer is back in all of his shirtless glory -- and then some -- in "Serenity." To set things straight, there's more to the flick than just ogling the actor's seemingly time defiant bod. And no, despite sharing the same title, this isn't a reboot or remake of the 2005 sci-fi flick of the same name.

Instead, that's the name of the charter fishing boat operated by McConaughey's character, Baker Dill, in this dramatic thriller that's anything but calm, peaceful or untroubled. If you're wondering why I opened with snarky comments about the actor's apparent need to show off his toned body, that's not just jealousy. Instead, it's that this flick is of the kind that contains a third-act twist/revelation that has both good and bad elements, but by its very nature makes it and everything related extremely difficult to discuss without giving anything away.

The film's core is fairly straightforward. Baker lives and operates from the remote Plymouth Island where he takes tourists out fishing -- alongside his first mate, Duke (Djimon Hounsou) -- when not bedding a local woman (Diane Lane) who has no problem paying him for his bedroom services. Between such work and the occasional fish he sells to the local market, he manages to make ends meet. But he often loses business when he selfishly tries to land a huge tuna that's bedeviled and eluded him so far.

A lucrative business proposition shows up in the company of his ex-wife, Karen (Anne Hathaway), who's married up (to Jason Clark's obnoxiously wealthy Frank). But that's an unhealthy, unhappy and abusive marriage fueled by booze, and so Karen offers to pay Baker an eight-figure dollar sum to take her hubby out fishing, get him drunk, and send him swimming with the fishies (or hungry sharks in this case).

While not exactly original, there's potential in the premise, but the way in which director Steven Knight visualizes his own script is often less than subtle in suggesting that there's more to what's transpiring than what initially meets the eye. And that ranges from an out of place, briefcase carrying character (Jeremy Strong) who keeps trying to meet Baker to some jarring camera and editing moves to over-the-top performances.

All of which is eventually explained in the aforementioned reveal that you can't help but feel is coming, but that doesn't prevent said moments and elements from ending up necessarily being distracting to one degree or another. I wrote down a number of well-known films I was reminded of while watching this one unfold, but I can't even mention them for fearing of revealing the big reveal.

Let's just say I like the plot development in concept (and imagine it might have worked better when reading it in the screenplay), but not as much as visualized execution. Additionally, and under additional post-viewing examination, much of what occurs (and is explained by the twist) doesn't make sense in terms of the context of what's really happening. There are also some missed opportunities of where and how things could have headed post-twist that might have made things more interesting (or at least entertaining).

So there you have it, a review where I can't discuss the most important elements. That is, unless those happen to be the various body parts McConaughey has no qualms or shame about showing in all of their buff glory (including some distracting wet t-shirt moments). Maybe those will distract you from the pic's problems, but for me they're not enough to block them from my sight. "Serenity" ends up with a rating of 4 out of 10.

Reviewed January 22, 2019 / Posted January 25, 2019

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