Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Serenity

Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway in a boldly preposterous noir.

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Aviron Pictures

In Serenity, we see that director Steven Knight has fully internalized the first rule of crazy-ass filmmaking: Shoot for the stars. No matter how implausible or plainly ridiculous your story may be—and since you wrote it, you'll be the judge of that—lean into it. Don't hold back. Go for the very best kind of very bad movie. You can do it. Steve did.

Serenity is actually two different movies—two different movie genres, in fact—oddly pressed together, like a grilled roach and cheese sandwich. On the surface we have a sultry tropical noir along the lines of, oh, Body Heat, or some other '80s artifact. Matthew McConaughey is Baker Dill (not his real name, it turns out—as if it could be anybody's real name). Baker operates a charter fishing boat called Serenity on remote Plymouth Island, a balmy locale so far from anywhere that it has just one bar, one cop, and one available lady (Diane Lane) for Baker to bonk.

Then one night who should come walking into the one bar but Baker's ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway, making her entrance in a starburst of screaming femme-fatality). Back in the day, when Baker was over in Iraq collecting medals and racking up PTSD points, faithless Karen took up with an abusive brute named Frank (Jason Clarke). She dumped Baker but kept their son Patrick (Rafael Sayegh) when she married this creep; now she's back, admitting her mistake, and wondering if Baker would be interested in sailing Frank out to sea and leaving him there to bond with the sharks. There's $10-million in it for him, if he's interested.

Here it must be mentioned that Baker is not a shark guy; he's a tuna guy. One tuna in particular—a big white bastard to which Baker has given the name Justice (yes, I'm afraid that's really what he has named it), and which he has continually failed to catch. That clonking you hear is indeed the sound of Hemingway headbutting Herman Melville, although, as is often the case in very bad movies, it ultimately doesn't end up meaning much.

Very soon we notice that there's a weird little guy in a black business suit chasing Baker around, claiming to have an important offer to make. Also that everybody in town seems to know whatever is going on in Baker's life. ("I heard she needs to be saved," somebody says of Karen. Says another: "How much she offer you to kill her husband?") We've also had no choice but to notice that Baker likes to walk around in rain-drenched t-shirts—or better yet, no t-shirt.. (Or, best of all, completely butt-naked.) Wither the McConaissance?

At some point about halfway through the movie, clouds of narrative ambiguity begin to gather, and another story starts taking shape within them. Baker appears to have some mental connection with his absent son, whom we intermittently see in his faraway bedroom poring over a computer screen. Then a black cat pads onto the scene. A quote from The Maltese Falcon is uttered. A dark frigate bird hovers high in the sky above Baker's fishing boat. There's talk of a "Doctor Bob."

By now you may be wondering what this movie is really all about. Also, when does it hit Netflix.

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31 responses to “Movie Review: Serenity

  1. Seems a bad idea to take Firefly out of the hands of Joss Whedon.

    1. Well, it’s a sequel, may as well watch it.

      1. Not without Summer Glau.

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  4. So is it better than Sahara?

    1. It’s barely better than “Surfer, Dude”…

      1. This makes me even more excited for The Beach Bum.

    2. Nothing is better than Sahara.

      1. Someone never saw Tiptoes.

    3. No, it’s also not better than Captain Ron (admittedly a high bar), Cabin Boy, or those trippy Lincoln commercials.

  5. Or, best of all, completely butt-naked.)

    From your lips to God’s ears.

  6. She dumped Baker but kept their son Patrick (Rafael Sayegh) when she married this creep; now she’s back, admitting her mistake, and wondering if Baker would be interested in sailing Frank out to sea and leaving him there to bond with the sharks. There’s $10-million in it for him, if he’s interested.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been through this. It never ends well.

  7. My question? How long has Loder been sitting impatiently on that “the McConaissance” line?

  8. Soylent McConaughey is made of McConaughey! Sorry to spoil it.

    1. Tony. A post of yours made a smile cross my face. For good happy reasons. Awesome.

  9. Doesn’t sound like it will hold a candle to “Serenity” of Firefly fame.

  10. a boldly preposterous noir

    Redundant.

  11. the old man, the white queen, and the sea?

  12. Anyone remember Palmetto, with Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Shue, Michael Rappaport, et al.? Pretty good / sweaty noir.

  13. Kurt Loder has made me reconsider my opinion of movie reviews. As a kid I liked watching Siskel & Ebert at the Movies, but most film reviews seem either ignorant (one extreme), or nothing but name dropping and cultural references (another extreme). Loder’s almost always make me smile and read to the end, even when it’s because early on I can see he’s leading a lamb to slaughter.

    (zB: “not his real name, it turns out?as if it could be anybody’s real name” — ha!)

    1. >>>as if it could be anybody’s real name” — ha!

      Baker Mayfield on line 2…

  14. Wasn’t Serenity about the immolation of the Firefly crew, and a Mary Sue named River?

  15. I was waiting for Loder to channel Frank Costanza & start pleading for Serenity Now!!!

  16. Definitely sounds like the screenplay was written by a committee.

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