In Serenity, Matthew McConaughey plays a hard-drinking fisherman with a murky past who is on the trail of his own Moby Dick, a large tuna fish called Justice. Written and directed by Stephen Knight (Locke), the film appears to be a rather messy amalgamation of Neo-Noir clichés and heavily coded tropes and never quite manages to get to the point, and in the end winds up sounding like the ramblings of a mad man.
The action takes place on the fictional Island of Plymouth where a small fishing community lives off the few wealthy tourists hoping to catch the “big one” and where Baker Dill (McConaughey), the captain of a small fishing boat hopes to make ends meet in between drowning his sorrows in a bottle of rum and late night hook-ups with his lover Constance (Diane Lane). Things take a turn for the sinister when mysterious femme fatal Katherine (Anne Hathaway) arrives on the island and offers Dill a huge sum of money to kill her wealthy abusive husband Frank (Jason Clarke).
It soon transpires that Katherine was once married to Dill and that the two share a son called Patrick, a gifted loner who has witnessed first-hand the daily abuse suffered by his mother. Despite being tempted by the prospect of ridding the world of the deeply unpleasant Frank, Dill has to begrudgingly take the advice of long-time friend Duke (Djimon Hounsou) who warms him against it, agreeing only to take the man out to fish in exchange for a hefty fee. Also on Dill’s trail a mysterious besuited individual named Reid Miller (Jeremy Strong) who appears to hold all the answers to this increasingly confusing tale.
Knight offers a decidedly bonkers, and utterly preposterous storyline which will leave you both puzzled and hugely entrained in equal measure. Things are further confused by an unexpected change of gear which in the end proves to be the film’s one and only saving grace in its ability to turn a bad movie into a movie that is “so bad, it’s good”. Furthermore, and even if one is willing to ignore its ill-judged premise, Serenity just doesn’t seem to know which story it wants to tell its audience, which is a real problem for both its director and his cast.
McConaughey is in fine scenery-chewing form in a role which he seems to be even more confused about than we are. On the other hand, Anne Hathaway appears to be playing it for laughs from the get go, with an almost knowing nod to classical hardboiled stories, but knowing full well that the film she’s in has far more in common with The Naked Gun, than it will ever have with Key Largo.
Overall, it’s fair to say that Serenity was dead in the water before it even started. It’s hard to see who will get any enjoyment out of this, beside those of us who will revel in its ridiculousness. A disappointing misfire from a writer/director who showed huge potential in the brilliant Locke, only to be landed with one of the biggest turkeys of 2019 so far.