Review by Sean Boelman
After his co-starring role in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, it was exciting to see actor John Boyega return to his indie sci-fi roots. But unfortunately for genre fans, Chase Palmer’s Naked Singularity doesn’t offer much in that regard, instead turning out to be a convoluted yet somehow dull heist movie.
The film follows a public defender who, after being thrown out by the system, sets out to foil a drug deal involving one of his clients for his own financial gain, and meanwhile, the end of the world is imminent. It’s one of those movies where it feels like a lot is going on but it’s mostly just a bunch of filler to make it seem smarter than it actually is.
Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about the film is that the apocalyptic elements are merely the backdrop for what is an overwhelmingly generic crime thriller. For the most part, this portion of the movie is relegated to on-screen text counting down the days until the end and a few scenes with a throwaway character that feel like an afterthought, or perhaps more likely an abandoned plot thread.
There is also an issue with the amount of perspectives that the film tries to fit into its ninety minute runtime. Instead of just focusing on the lawyer and his client, there are also storylines about the client’s shady lover and the cops who are trying to catch the drug kingpins. It’s a lot, and more often than not, the audience just won’t care.
The things that the movie has to say about the failures of the U.S. justice system are interesting in theory, but are executed with such a weak hand that they almost become meaningless. The film is sorely lacking in the perspective of a person of color in the writer’s chair to let it have the finger on the pulse of what’s going on in society right now.
Palmer’s direction is always largely lacking in style. There are a couple action sequences that threaten to be sleek and stylish, but end up underwhelming nevertheless. The movie could never decide between being campy or gritty, and so it often creates a feeling of tonal whiplash, sometimes even between consecutive scenes.
It’s a shame, because the cast is filled with notable actors and their performances are all genuinely good. While Boyega might not be doing his most nuanced work here, he’s still a ton of fun to watch in the role. Olivia Cooke is as good as ever in her prominent supporting role, and with smaller parts, Bill Skarsgård, Ed Skrein, and Tim Blake Nelson are all memorable.
Naked Singularity is a watchable film for sure, but there’s no reason that a movie with this cast shouldn’t have been better than this. It’s a step above the average B-movie, and that isn’t too major of an accomplishment.
Naked Singularity is now in theaters and hits VOD on August 13.