Hugh Jackman searches for his lost love in a water-logged, yawn-inducing blend of Inception and Strange Days. Reminiscence refers to a near future technology where past memories can be experienced again in a cerebrum simulation. The story takes place in a Miami flooded by climate change and beset by class warfare. Poverty stricken drug addicts pine for the sweet embrace of nostalgia over their soggy reality. The film is shot in a forties crime noir style that ends up being its best attribute. Everything else, especially the glaring lack of chemistry between the leads, is dull and contrived.
Hugh Jackman stars as Nick Bannister, a gimpy border war vet that operates a Reminiscence parlor with an old squad mate. Watts (Thandiwe Newton) drinks herself to oblivion while operating the equipment. He verbally guides their clientele to the desired memory. Nick is instantly smitten when the sultry Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) comes in for a routine recollection. He tracks her to a bar where she titillates the drunken patrons with her lounge singer act. They fall madly in love until Mae suddenly disappears.
Nick becomes obsessed with finding what happened to Mae. Watts warns him about pursuing her, but he cannot let Mae go. Nick’s investigation quickly reveals that Mae had many dark secrets. An encounter with a dangerous drug dealer (Daniel Wu) and his crooked cop lackey (Cliff Curtis) opens the door to a murderous conspiracy. Nick wonders if the woman he adored was just an illusion.
Reminiscence moves at a snail’s pace. Director Lisa Joy (Westworld), the wife and producing partner of Jonathan Nolan, becomes too focused on the gnarly bits of her dystopian future. Nick is the quintessential classic gumshoe scouring society’s underbelly for a missing dame. Narrating his seedy journey via the requisite constant voice-over. But this isn’t a Humphrey Bogart or Joseph Cotten thriller in the 21st century. Nick’s investigation is like watching molasses drip backwards in slow motion. There are huge chunks of the film where nothing important happens. Joy waxes poetic and stylistic for way too long.
Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson, both great actors, are miscast here as a couple. I never bought the love aspect or his infatuation with her. It could be that her lounge singing scenes reminded me of a live-action Jessica Rabbit impersonation. The film also gives up an important clue early on, so the drawn out mystery isn’t that compelling. This leaves the lead characters’ interactions as critical to the entertainment value. Reminiscence falls apart when you don’t buy the basic premise.
Two more issues were bothersome. Nick limps when walking. But can run at a fast clip when needed, leap from building to building, and swim like a fish. There’s no reason to show him with a handicap if you’re not going to respect that choice. Finally, the Reminiscence procedure doesn’t look interesting. We’ve seen similar production designs in better sci-fi films. There needed to be a more innovative take on the memory immersion. Reminiscence is produced by FilmNation Entertainment, Kilter Films, and Michael De Luca Productions. It will have a concurrent release on August 20th in theaters and HBO Max from Warner Bros.
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