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In Scarborough, Maine, a real-estate agent meets a brutal end, setting the stage for detective Tom Nichols (Benicio Del Toro) to unravel the mystery behind the crime. As Nichols delves into the investigation, he uncovers not only the dark secrets of the neighborhood but also a moral decay seeping into his own life.
Reptile opens with picturesque scenes of affluent American suburbia, portraying large white houses as symbols of desirable affluence. This idyllic imagery, however, is soon overshadowed by the grim detective drama following the murder. Tom Nichols, portrayed by Benicio Del Toro, leads the investigation. Despite his seemingly well-adjusted life, Nichols discovers unsettling truths that hit close to home.
In this debut feature by Grant Singer, co-written by Del Toro and Benjamin Brewer, the film falls short of fully capitalizing on the potential suburban nightmare. While cinematographer Mike Gioulakis contributes handsome visuals, reminiscent of his work on Us and It Follows, the film struggles to evoke the haunting mood it aspires to achieve. The narrative attempts to emulate the intensity of Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners or David Fincher’s gritty cop stories but falls into parody rather than meaningful pastiche.
Despite Benicio Del Toro’s formidable screen presence, the film is hampered by uninspiring scripting. Moments that could have added intentional silliness feel scarce, and the attempt to create a tense atmosphere often leads to unintentional laughs. The film’s overwrought score-cues and awkward dialogue contribute to a sense of disconnect, leaving the audience with an uneven viewing experience.
Del Toro’s solid charisma can only do so much to salvage Reptile, a derivative and lethargic thriller that struggles to establish itself as a meaningful iteration on the detective genre it admires. The film, stretched thin over a lengthy runtime, fails to deliver the thrills expected from a detective thriller, leaving viewers with little to savor.