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Reminiscence (2021) – Review: An Ambitious Noir That Lacks a Compelling Script

September 2, 2021

Quick Thoughts – Grade – C- – Reminiscence is Loaded With Style, But the Predictable Plot, and Overly Familiar Dialogue Weigh it Down. 

Directed and written by Lisa Joy (Westworld, Pushing Daisies), Reminiscence gathers an A-list cast, and places them in a film that lacks surprises or believable stakes. The production design by Howard Cummings (Westworld, Contagion), and cinematography by Paul Cameron (Westworld, Man on Fire) are top notch, and knowing that an PG-13 noir has a $50 million budget in 2021 is cool, but, the budget and technical prowess can’t improve the story.

Reminiscence takes place in a near-future world that has been ravaged by climate change and war. The residents of the water-logged Miami have turned to “vampires” who only come out at night, as the sweltering daytime heat, flooded streets, and lack of work has created a populace of people who look for drugs, or other means to escape the brutal life. This is where Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) and Emily “Watts” Sanders (Thandiwe Newton – a fun Westworld reunion with Joy) make their money, as they provide a service that allows customers to experience past memories in realistic simulations. Things turn sideways when Mae (Rebecca Ferguson – in a fun The Greatest Showman reunion with Jackman), a lounge singer turns up and wants Nick to help her find her misplaced keys. Since it’s a noir, Mae is clearly meant to be a femme fatale-esque character, who seduces Nick, and drags him into a world of crime, drugs, sex, and booze. She’s successful in her ruse, and the rest of the film is about Nick following breadcrumbs to a larger conspiracy involving actors Cliff Curtis, Daniel Wu, and Marina de Tavira.

The movie comes alive when Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands, Tomb Raider) is onscreen. He plays a character named Saint Joe, who is a drug kingpin that loves eels and theatrics. He also has a history with Mae, whom he got hooked on a drug called Bae (another form of escape), and she promptly stole his stash. The best moment of the film happens when Nick hunts Joe down, and confronts him during a very fun nightclub encounter. The scene allows Wu to have a blast with his gangster persona, who plays like a surfer, met a drug kingpin, and they blended into a scene-stealing villain. The moment is over the top, and features hungry eels, stylish speeches, and a fun gunfight that allows Wu to look cool. 

What holds the film down is the screenplay by Joy, which invents a new world (which is cool), but gives the actors hard-boiled dialogue that is really hard to deliver. The dialogue never feels organic, and instead plays like actors reciting stylized dialogue, and that takes a lot away from the film. When actors like Jackman, Newton and Fergusson can’t deliver lines like “Memory is the boat that sails against its current,” believably, you know there is a problem with the script. Also, since it’s a noir, you can telegraph certain twists-and-turns, which destroy any surprises because you know there will be booze, double-crosses, mystery villains, and more booze. 

Final thoughts – I’m excited to see what Lisa Joy does next because I love Westworld, and think she’ll come back stronger after this experience. 

One Comment leave one →
  1. John Leavengood permalink
    September 7, 2021 7:57 pm

    Totally agree with your C- grade and criticism. It’s one of the most unengaging films I’ve wanted to enjoy in quite some time.

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