‘Reptile’ – A Tense Thriller That Slithers Away from Its Promise

Benicio del Torro and Alicia Silverstone in 'Reptile'

The opening moments of “Reptile” are undeniably riveting, setting the stage for an enticing murder mystery anchored by Benicio del Toro’s character, Detective Tom Nichols. However, before we delve into the film’s merits and drawbacks, it’s necessary to dispel any initial misconceptions about the “reptilian” title. Contrary to what one might assume, ‘Reptile’ is not a monster movie. Instead, it seems to allude to del Toro’s character, Tom Nichols, an old-school police detective who remains committed to his job, even if it means venturing into the dark and relentless territory.

Detective Nichols works as the film’s driving force in his relentless pursuit of justice, bordering on obsession. As the story unfolds, it becomes evident that he’s willing to go above and beyond, even if it means sacrificing his relationships with friends and family. He embodies the tormented lone wolf cop, tired, stretched thin and determined.

The premise of ‘Reptile’ is straightforward, adhering to the classic who-done-it plotline. A young real estate agent is brutally murdered in one of the houses she’s showing, setting the stage for a murder investigation led by Detective Nichols and his team. The list of suspects includes the victim’s boyfriend (ably portrayed by Justin Timberlake) and her ex-husband, Sam Gifford (Karl Glusman).

Just when it seems that the case has been neatly resolved, Nichols defiantly delves into alternative solutions, challenging his fellow officers and endangering his personal life, particularly his relationship with his wife, Judy (Alicia Silverstone).

The screenplay, crafted by writer/director Grant Singer, del Toro, and Benjamin Brewer, starts promisingly but encounters issues in the second half. Some of the narrative challenges may be attributed to muddled editing by Kevin Hickman. The plot eventually transforms into a paranoid and bizarre narrative centered on corruption. The storyline does not offer much new, particularly for fans of this genre.

Yair Elazar Glotman and Black Label Media’s music score persistently hints at impending tension and eerie developments. However, this sense of foreboding often feels like a petty ploy, leaving viewers expecting more than the film ultimately delivers. Yes, Grant offers up a few moments of suspense, but overall, it moves ploddingly along. What starts as a tense crime story eventually falls short of expectations, concluding in a way that leaves some questions unanswered. While the film’s initial promise, intriguing setup, and committed performances offer hope, ‘Reptile’ struggles to maintain its early momentum, making it a thriller that doesn’t entirely fulfill its potential. Still, fans of shows like ‘Dateline’ and ‘20/20’ might appreciate the effort and will most definitely enjoy the film’s leads. It earns 3 out of 5 stars

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