There is a Jack Reacher novel where a woman lets the bad guys into her home, thinking they are prospective buyers. All sorts of dreadful things happen before our Rambo-Rimbaud combo deal saves the day. That story effectively dug into the vulnerability of showing or seeing houses with people one does not really know — anyone can get a key and a viewing order after all.
So it is that in Reptile, when the attractive, young real estate agent, Summer (Matilda Lutz), is getting ready to show a beautiful house, one does not even need the ominous music to realise that the viewing is going to end badly. Summer is in a relationship with Will Grady (Justin Timberlake) who runs the real estate firm with his tough-as-nails mum, Camille (Frances Fisher).
There are all sorts of underlying tensions with everyone keeping things from each other. When Summer is brutally murdered, the police step in. Detective Nichols (Benicio del Toro) and Cleary (Ato Essandoh) are assigned the case. Nichols left his earlier department thanks to an internal affairs investigation, which cleared him but made it difficult for him to continue there because of all the bad blood and suspicion.
Director: Grant Singer
Cast: Benicio del Toro, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Silverstone, Matilda Lutz, Justin Timberlake, Frances Fisher, Ato Essandoh
Storyline: A veteran cop with a troubled past starts digging into a brutal murder and uncovers the mandatory can of worms
Run time: 136 minutes
Nichols and his wife, Judy (Alicia Silverstone), move to Scarborough, where Judy’s uncle, Robert Allen (Eric Bogosian), is the police captain. Through the investigation, Nichols feels he is being nudged in different directions whenever he gets close to a version of the truth. There is no dearth of suspects, from Summer’s ex-husband, Sam (Karl Glusman), to Eli Phillips (Michael Pitt), who feels the Gradys were responsible for his father’s death.
There also seems to be a big, fat conspiracy involving crooked cops and confiscated heroin packed with Christmas-themed tape. Some clues seem just there to muddy the waters and are not resolved, which is rather lazy—what was the deal with the paint?
It is nice that Nichols is tenacious and sharp and gets to the solution not by divine insight or just because he read the script. He gets to the finish by not letting all the many distractions disrupt his path to the truth. And he is not afraid of looking at the truth in the face, however much it hurts him.
While Reptile might not be the twisty, curly thriller that we have now come to expect thanks to long-form streaming series, it has enough muscle to keep one invested. Del Toro’s world-weary yet honest cop, who we have seen from Traffic is here in all his glory, weathered to a smooth silky finish quite like his jacket even as he burns up the dance floor in his downtime.
Sunny Silverstone and Timberlake, who might or might not be the bad guys, are perfect counterpoints to Del Toro’s Nichols. The framing is lovely, with all those reflections foreshadowing the fact that nothing is as it seems as do the evidence of rats and snakeskin. With Del Toro sharing screenplay credits, advertising and music video director Grant Singer makes a stylish debut in this old-school crime thriller.
Reptile is currently streaming on Netflix