Reptile (dir. Grant Singer)

By: Adam Freed

Somewhere in the recent record of troubling Hollywood decisions it was concluded that  there was no longer space for the crime drama.  As a result, the genre that offered iconic entries like The Conversation (1974), Se7en (1995) and L.A. Confidential (1997) was relegated to weak episodic streaming afterthoughts.  With a blatant disregard for the genre’s limited but passionate audience, the economic feasibility of the short form whodunnit has all but vanished.  Which is why Grant Singer’s Netflix streaming thriller Reptile offers welcome relief for those desperate to satiate their thirst for a dark and brooding David Fincher style mystery from the comfort of home.  Bolstered by a noteworthy return to form performance by producer and star Benicio Del Toro, Reptile proves a worthy first feature film for director Singer.

Best in class crime thrillers have never been shy about occupying ample time to weave a tale that is equal parts plausible and mysterious.  Reptile slithers impactfully in pursuit of this goal through its development of numerous characters that have both motive and motivation, to either solve the crime of the brutally slain realtor, or to have been the perpetrator of the vile deed.   It is Del Toro’s detective Tom Nichols who slyly and courageously ties together leads while navigating a bevy of pitfalls.  The thriller is a welcome return sighting of Alicia Silverstone who retains her sparkle as Detective Nichol’s wife Judy.  Adding another big name to the poster, but very little to the dramatic performance of the film is Justin Timberlake, who is a warming influence as a recognizable face, but offers very little added value as smarmy realtor Will Grady.  Timberlake is tasked with carrying the weight of a character emotionally torn, the depth of the pop star’s performance never meets the significant demands of the character.  To the credit of Grant Singer he leans heaviest on the most talented of his cast members, the mark of an apt director making his first foray into features after establishing himself in the world of music video.

Reptile lacks a great deal of the unabashed style and substance of a David Fincher film, but there are notable traces of recognizable DNA coursing through its cool veins.  Not every winding path presented offers a satisfactory resolution, yet the film succeeds in answering the most pertinent of questions and is sure to keep audiences meaningfully engaged.  Overlooking a few of Reptile’s shortcomings becomes easier when it is weighed against its recent feature length competitors, as there are so few.  While Singer’s film won’t earn long term market share amongst the genre’s elite, it is certainly a worthwhile reminder of what makes crime drama such an enjoyable investment.   

Target Score: 6/10 - Reptile is a confidently paced and executed crime drama that seldom allows audiences a chance to catch their breath.  Not every lead in the film is fully unpacked, but what audiences are given is highly enjoyable.  Benicio Del Toro reminds audiences that his top form has very few rivals.