[Screen It]


(2021) (Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson) (PG-13)

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Sci-Fi: Using her and others' recorded memories, a man tries to figure out what happened to his lover who's abruptly vanished.

In the not-too-distant future, Miami is a city that's partially underwater and where corrupt businessman Walter Sylvan (BRETT CULLEN) owns most of the dry land. Down in the flooded section, military veterans Nick Bannister (HUGH JACKMAN) and his assistant Watts (THANDIWE NEWTON) run a company that allows people to revisit their memories in full detail. Their latest client is Mae (REBECCA FERGUSON), a singer who wants to use their service to find her lost keys, but it's Nick who loses his heart to her and the two soon become a couple. But just as quickly as she comes into his life, Mae abruptly disappears.

Using her and others' recorded memories, he starts looking for clues about what happened to her and that leads to her past involvement with drug kingpin Saint Joe (DANIEL WU) and his former cop, right-hand man Cyrus Boothe (CLIFF CURTIS). As Nick digs deeper, he soon learns that Mae might not have been the woman he thought she was.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10

Back in college, long, long ago, I knew a girl who had a photographic memory. It was something to behold, especially when she didn't know I was going to test her, such as to describe a person who walked by us minutes earlier. Her recall of details -- without seemingly having to think about let alone struggle to access the info in her head -- was nothing short of amazing.

Of course, having not kept in touch and with the passage of time and effects that aging can have on one's mind, I have no idea if she still possesses that uncanny ability or could potentially still pull up the image of that person in question from so long ago.

I never had anything near that ability, but I'm fairly certain that with each retrieval of any of my memories -- of her, that particular test, or any of the thousands of things I've experienced since then -- my brain has likely altered in one way or another the reality of that previous situation. Of course, the question is whether that's how the memory is now newly stored, or if the unaltered truth still resides somewhere inside my noggin.

That notion would have been a fun twist to the events that play out in "Reminiscence," a sci-fi take on film noir of old. In it, Hugh Jackman plays the detective of sorts who sets out to discover what happened to the new love of his life who's abruptly vanished as quickly as she arrived.

After a stream of genre-obligatory voice-over narration from our protagonist and an introductory scene that demos the particulars of what's to follow, Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) enters the Miami flood zone headquarters where Nick (Jackman) and his assistant, Watts (Thandie Newton) operate a memory business. Unlike the implanted fake memories provided by Rekall in "Total Recall," our military vets use technology that allows customers to revisit their memories, guided there by Nick's smooth and reassuring voice.

Whereas others want to relive their favorite moments, Mae is interested in finding a lost set of keys, all of which eventually results in her and Nick engaging in the horizontal mambo. But then she up and disappears and he sets out to use her recorded memories -- and those of others who had a connection to her -- to piece together the answers to the hows, whens, whys, and wheres of the mystery.

There's potential in this offering from writer/director Lisa Joy (making her feature film debut after similarly wearing both hats on the TV series "Westworld"), but the end result is something of a jumbled, missed opportunity where things feel off right from the get-go and never recover from that.

Whether that's just how things played out or is the result of studio meddling in terms of reshoots and edits in hopes of salvaging things isn't clear, but this mashup of sci-fi, old gumshoe noir stylings, and even disaster films (the story is set in Miami that's years into rising sea level flooding) just didn't work for me.

And that's especially true of the all-important romance angle between Jackman and Ferguson's characters that feels rushed and never authentic (a common trait for other elements of the film). Without that, we're never that engaged in Nick's quest to solve the mystery of Mae's abrupt disappearance or what the "detective" uncovers during his search.

What might have helped -- at minimum in terms of keeping viewers on their toes -- would have been the question of whether the memories in play were factual or possibly unreliable. That latter could have been tainted by repeated recall with sleight (or even significant) alterations created by wishful thinking or the conscious or unconscious desire to put a happy spin on what really happened.

Without that, the jumbled and, at times, messy storytelling and spurts of action simply aren't that intriguing or interesting. Granted, the passage of time and trying to recall this film in the future might result in altered memories of the finished product, but in real-time as the end credits rolled, I was already starting to forget what I had just seen. Which is never a good thing and for that reason, "Reminiscence" rates as just a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed August 17, 2021 / Posted August 20, 2021

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