Benicio Del Toro is one of those actors you can watch in anything. But he’s especially good at playing the hardboiled detective in Grant Singer’s new Netflix film REPTILE. Written by Singer, Del Toro and Benjamin Brewer, this murder mystery packs enough twists and turns to keep even the best amateur sleuth guessing.
Following the rather brutal murder of a young real estate agent, Summer Elswick (Matilda Lutz), Tom Nichols (Del Toro) is assigned the case. He’s immediately suspicious of Summer’s partner in business --- and life --- Will Grady (Justin Timberlake), who found the body in the home she was showing alone. Despite Tom’s thoughts about Will, he does have an alibi.
This is new territory for Tom. He and his wife, Judy (Alicia Silverstone), have recently moved to this small town, where Tom was given a second chance by Judy’s Uncle Wally (Domenick Lombardozzi). It’s important that he solves this crime while also fitting in with the team at work, including his partner, Dan Cleary (Ato Essandoh), and his boss, Captain Robert Allen (Eric Bogosian).
Besides Will, Tom and Dan have a couple of other men to consider as suspects. Summer’s ex, Sam Gifford (Karl Glusman), is one and Eli Phillips (Michael Pitt) is another. As the two detectives dig deeper, drugs come into play --- and things aren’t what they seem. A web of lies, deceit and money laundering draw Tom in and threaten his --- and Judy’s --- very existence.
Like good comedies, good mysteries are very difficult to pen. Singer and Brewer are responsible for the story behind REPTILE, and it’s definitely solid. What did this beautiful young woman do --- or know --- to get her killed --- and so violently? Summer was cheating on Will with her ex. Was that it or something more sinister --- or possibly illegal? The screenplay keeps the audience guessing until the jolting --- and satisfactory --- conclusion.
Del Toro sets the tone for REPTILE with his somber demeanor. Tom takes his job very seriously and Del Toro never wavers from his character’s commitment to finding the truth. He’s just so amazing to watch --- and he and Silverstone share a credible chemistry as husband and wife. At one point, Tom rushes home late at night to find Judy standing over an intruder in their yard --- holding a gun on him. The scene is tense, plausible, and Tom manages to defuse it.
Timberlake is also surprisingly good. He shows a competent, convincing range. Essandoh, who is great in the Keri Russell series “The Diplomat”, also on Netflix, makes a terrific sidekick for the stoic Del Toro.
This is Singer’s first foray into directing feature films. REPTILE isn’t perfect, but it’s a better-than-decent start.
Opinion: See It Now!
REPTILE is an intelligently written murder whodunit that will keep audiences guessing until the very end. With a cast that includes Benicio Del Toro, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Silverstone and Eric Bogosian --- how could it not be compelling?
First-time feature film director Grant Singer combined with Benjamin Brewer and Del Toro to write the screenplay. One major facet of the script demonstrates Tom Nichols’ (Del Toro) absolute integrity as the detective investigating the murder of a real estate agent. A presumed killer is arrested and the case against him looks solid. However, a question arises about his guilt and Tom is not quite ready to close the case. This would have been the easy way out. How many cops would have taken that route?
REPTILE is all about trust. Can you really rely on everyone in your circle of friends, family and colleagues? Fortunately for Tom, at least a few of the people in his circle are trustworthy --- but not all. And this is the crux of REPTILE as we try to sort out who is telling the truth and who is not.
The suspense in REPTILE is sustained throughout with Del Toro shining as the uncorruptible lawman who tells his wife, Judy (Silverstone), that the only thing he loves as much as her is being a cop. Timberlake renders a very good performance as Will Grady, the grieving boyfriend of the murdered realtor, Summer Elswick (Matilda Lutz).
A strong supporting cast includes Ato Essandoh as Dan Cleary, Tom’s partner, and Domenick Lombardozzi as Wally, a fellow officer. Frances Fisher is sneakily sly as Will’s mother Camille. We’re never sure what she’s up to. And Michael Pitt plays Eli Phillips, another suspicious character.
Exceptional cinematography by Michael Gioulakis keeps things interesting with his extreme close-ups and hints of what is about to happen. Gioulakis supervised the camera work on two commendable thrillers, IT FOLLOWS (2014) and US (2019), the Jordan Peele film.
Thankfully, all questions are answered in REPTILE by the final frame, leaving nothing to conjecture.
Opinion: See It Now!