In the vast landscape of thrillers, some rely heavily on atmosphere and mood to captivate their audience. “Reptile,” a recent addition to Netflix’s collection, falls into this category, but it may leave viewers sinking in a sea of brooding unease.
With a runtime of nearly two-and-a-half hours, this murder mystery maintains a consistent tone of impending doom, creating a monotonous experience that eventually loses its grip. Let’s delve into the details of this film and explore whether it’s worth your time.
A Slow-Burning Start
“Reptile” commences with an alluringly sinister pull, introducing us to a seemingly idyllic New England life shared by real estate agents Summer Elswick (Matilda Lutz) and her boyfriend, Will Grady (Justin Timberlake).
The eerie undertones are set early on, with the ominous interruption of Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning” on the soundtrack. The film’s first jolt of shock arrives abruptly as Will discovers Summer’s brutally murdered body, leaving us with a disturbing visual imprinted by the title.
Enter Detective Oklahoma
Seasoned detective Tom “Oklahoma” Nichols, portrayed by Benicio del Toro, takes on the case, but his investigation unfolds at a snail’s pace. The list of suspects is limited but intriguingly filled with potentially unhinged individuals. Timberlake’s portrayal of Will keeps us guessing about his involvement, while Karl Glusman’s character, the dirtbag ex-husband, adds complexity.
Michael Pitt’s Eli Phillips, a local with a grudge, becomes a focal point, and the movie’s trajectory hinges on whether he’s the culprit or an obvious red herring.
Director Grant Singer, making his feature film debut, channels his background in music videos into this project. The film’s surface is meticulously crafted, but it often seems more concerned with visuals than with maintaining a coherent narrative flow. The influence of David Fincher is palpable, as “Reptile” mirrors his signature style, complete with moody lighting and tense atmospheres.
While the film successfully creates an atmosphere of suspense and gloom, it struggles to sustain genuine intrigue. Singer’s screenplay feels stretched, with the mystery becoming less captivating as the detective inches closer to a resolution. The critical revelation that cracks the case is tainted by the culprit’s laughable carelessness, leaving viewers wanting more complexity and depth.
A Silver Lining
Amidst the film’s shortcomings, there are elements to appreciate. Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis brings his knack for infusing suburban settings with hidden menace, reminiscent of his work in other notable films. However, it’s the performances that provide the film’s saving grace. Benicio del Toro’s understated portrayal draws viewers in with its subtlety, adding layers of intrigue even when the plot falters.
“Reptile” ventures into the realm of thriller cinema with ambition but ultimately falls short of delivering a compelling narrative. Its overreliance on atmosphere and mood leaves the audience adrift in a sea of unrelenting unease.
While Benicio del Toro’s performance shines amidst the murky storytelling, the film lacks the substance and complexity needed to make it stand out in the thriller genre. For those seeking a more engaging mystery, “Reptile” might not be the ideal choice.