Review by Sean Boelman
After supposedly retiring from film and making a comeback, Steven Soderbergh has had one of the most robust outputs of any filmmaker working today, even if it mostly doesn’t match the quality of his early filmography. Unfortunately, Kimi may be his worst movie ever, a derivative thriller that feels more like a paranoid rant than an intriguing satire.
The film follows a tech worker who discovers evidence of a crime while analyzing audio files as part of her job. It feels like a pretty blatant rip-off of Blow Out (itself a rip-off of Blow-Up, albeit a very good one) with the technology in the story being updated for the sake of forcing the movie to feel modern and timely.
There is a very clear anti-capitalist message here, but David Koepp’s script is nowhere as intelligent or insightful as it thinks it is. The Alexa stand-in lends its name to the film, but if that isn’t obvious enough, it is the flagship product of a massive tech company based in Seattle. And while it is nice to see a movie targeting the megacorporation, this is embarrassingly generic in its storytelling.
The pacing of the film is all over the place too. With a runtime of less than ninety minutes, one would think that it would have to be lean storytelling, but the first half dawdles and the second half turns into disorienting madness. And we know that Soderbergh is able to direct suspense quite well, so why this is such a massive failure is beyond explanation.
Of all the filmmakers in the world, Soderbergh seemed like the one best-fit to make a movie during the pandemic. After all, even before the forced restrictions, he shot Unsane and High Flying Bird on iPhone, and they were both quite impressive. This is just bad, and he somehow created no suspense whatsoever, even during the most action-packed moments.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the movie is that the characters lack motivation. The film makes sure to emphasize the fact that the protagonist is agoraphobic, but then several of her actions just don’t make any sense. And the antagonists are outright cartoonish, some of the most ridiculously bad for the sake of it characters in recent memory. The point that Koepp is trying to make here is compelling, but the way it is done makes him seem like a kooky old man.
This could have been an acting showcase for the exceptionally talented Zoë Kravitz, if only because she is the only person on screen for a majority of the runtime, but her performance here is awful. It’s probably due to no fault of her own, but she takes everything to the extreme in a way that is actively dislikable. Devin Ratray is also here… for reasons, I guess?
Coming from any other filmmaker, Kimi would be unforgivable, but as a dark spot on Soderbergh’s filmography, it’s just massively disappointing. It’s an unimaginative, overly overt mess, and an absolute waste of its director’s talents.
Kimi streams on HBO Max beginning February 10.