Even if its plot twists weren’t dumb (which they are), “Serenity” would be a bad movie because of its broad, hammy acting. Written and directed by Steven Knight (“Locke”), this perplexing noir misfire has the kind of performances where people regularly look up to the sky and shout “Noooooo!” (or words to that effect). Bad though it is, at least it’s not boring.
The setting is Plymouth Island, a quaint tropical spot in what seems to be the Caribbean, where a U.S. war veteran named Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) barely makes a living as a fisherman. He and his first mate, Duke (Djimon Hounsou), also earn cash by taking tourists out on Baker’s boat (called Serenity) so they can fish in the deep sea, but sometimes Baker gets distracted by a specific tuna he’s been trying to catch for years and ignores what the customers want.
In his spare time, Baker sleeps with Diane Lane.
Then Baker’s ex-wife, Karen (Anne Hathaway), shows up, all femme fatale-like, with a proposition: If Baker will take her abusive new husband, Frank (Jason Clarke), out to sea and cause him to have a fatal “accident,” Karen will give him $10 million. Baker’s concern for Karen is minimal, but they have a 13-year-old son together, Patrick (Rafael Sayegh), whom Baker doesn’t want living with a heel stepfather. He loves his son so much that they somehow have a psychic connection.
Meanwhile, there’s a man in a suit (Jeremy Strong) who needs to speak with Baker about something but keeps missing him. There are other peculiar details, too. The film’s very first shot is a close-up of someone’s eye; the camera zooms into it and emerges in the ocean on which Serenity sails, suggesting that this is all in someone’s mind or at least from a very specific point of view. The explanation for everything makes no real-world sense and raises more questions than it answers.
There can be pleasure in seeing a movie go so wrong in so many ways. “Serenity” isn’t loud, irritating, offensive, or controversial; it’s just stupid, earnestly and cheerfully so. It’s a bad movie that has NO IDEA it’s a bad movie, where if you were to say, “Hey, movie, don’t you think you’re kind of bad?” the movie would reply, “What? No! Why on earth would you say that?” Being even-keeled and sincere makes it more palatable than a lot of bad movies, but make no mistake, it’s still bad.
D (1 hr., 46 min.; )