“Some weird stuff goin’ on right now,” says Matthew McConaughey’s character halfway through “Serenity,” and frankly that’s understating it. This film is one of the weirdest major releases to roll off the assembly line in quite some time.
McConaughey plays a bitter deep-sea fisherman named Baker Dill, sweating his way through an unhappy existence on a tropical island called Plymouth.
While renting out his charter boat to drunken tourists, Baker obsessively chases a mythical tuna. Yes, a mythical tuna — it’s no white whale, but a man needs a nemesis. He sleeps with a local woman (Diane Lane) and takes money from her, and drinks with his buddies, and jumps naked into the sea for his daily bath.
Why, then, is this guy so grumpy? Maybe because his son is a world away, something he’s reminded about when his ex-wife, Karen (Anne Hathaway), suddenly arrives on the island.
For a moment, it looks like “Serenity” will tilt toward film noir: Karen offers Dill 10 million bucks to toss her current husband into the sea. Preferably near some nice hungry sharks.
The husband arrives, played by Jason Clarke (“Zero Dark Thirty”), who revels in the man’s grossness. Dill and his deckhand, Duke (Djimon Hounsou), toy with the morality of the $10 million.
But — there’s more. Oh, boy, is there more, but we have to be a little respectful toward writer-director Steven Knight’s concept and not give the whole game away. Put it this way: Not everything on the island is as it seems.
Now, Knight is a talented screenwriter, the author of “Eastern Promises” and the underrated World War II drama “Allied.” He directed a compelling one-man experiment, “Locke,” which consisted of Tom Hardy driving a car for 90 minutes.
But “Serenity” has a premise so crackpot it’s impossible to believe that one of its 17 credited producers didn’t pull the director aside and slap him with a tuna.
What about the actors, you say? Surely they offer some distraction? McConaughey’s in he-man mode, and seems to enjoy getting his T-shirts wet and/or wriggling out of his pants. Which is actually kind of weird once you find out the meta-story of what we’re watching, but whatever.
Hathaway is woefully underprepared to attempt a femme fatale, and Lane’s character appears set up for something that ended up on the cutting-room floor. She owns a black cat that seems to have tremendous significance, until, I guess, it doesn’t.
It’s all pretty nutty, but I wish the film had actually gone farther — it might have hit a vein of really original weirdness. As it is, “Serenity” isn’t wild enough to become more than a head-scratching oddity.
“Serenity” (1 star)
Matthew McConaughey is a deep-sea fisherman and Anne Hathaway his sultry ex-wife, locked in a film noir plot on a tropical island — until director Steven Knight’s story takes an absolutely bizarre turn. The result is one of the weirdest releases to roll off the assembly line in some time.
Rating: R, for nudity, violence, language