Sorry to say to all you Hugh Jackman fans, but you may not like him in the unpleasant and spooky film Reminiscence by director/writer Lisa Joy. I’m all for women directors, but what was she thinking with this mish-mash of a movie? Is it a romance, a mystery, a gangster film, a sci-fi rocket to the universe, or a look on horror side? Rolling all her nightmares into the script, Joy came up with a confusing muddle for Jackman to somehow elevate out of the doldrums.
Jackman plays a disheveled, dirty, unshaven hulk of a man in a flooded Miami ( a nod to global warming, but no explanation as to why it is set awash in this environment) who has invented a machine that can bring back all your memories, pleasant or not. Apparently, people pay him to fry their brains so they can remember unsavory things from their past. He has an assistant in the form of the lovely Thandie Newton. Right off the bat you know she is in love with him, but he’s so dense he doesn’t even see her as a woman.
Out of the blue, in flounces Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson wearing a dazzling gown (designed by the talented Jennifer Starzyk) and reminding fans she was in Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible films and Jackman’s own musical, The Greatest Showman as singer Jenny Lind. What a coincidence! She comes in hoping Jackman’s machine can help her find her lost keys. That’s as lame an excuse she can come up with, but does she have ulterior motives? We are not sure, but as the film unfolds we are even less sure of where she (Mae) is going with this.
We don’t even have to mention that scruffy Hugh (as Nick Bannister) immediately falls in love with her. Who wouldn’t? She reminds us a little of a young Ingrid Bergman. Ms. Newton stands by looking like a sad-eyed cocker spaniel as this all unfolds. Does she know it will all come to no good end? Don’t ask, but Hugh (I can’t call him Nick because he is always Hugh) somehow goes semi-berserk when Mae suddenly disappears and he sets out on a quest to find her.
This is when some great character actors outshine Hugh as he gets involved with shady gangsters and people who shoot first and then ask your name. As a dive owner and one who is sleazier than the clientele of the bar, is actor Daniel Wu. Tough, smart, sharply dressed, and lethal, he adds to the film and provides some well-needed action. Also notable are Cliff Curtis, Rey Hernandez, Han Soto, and Renes Rivera, all thugs in one way or another, but consummate performers. Hugh seems to fight with everybody and is constantly getting punched in the face, but revives and is ready for more action. Nobody will help him find the missing Mae.
It seems the film keeps going off on tangents. People keep getting into the machine to either revive their memories or to get punished with Hugh turning up the juice and frying their noggins. Will Hugh have to beat up everybody in Miami and New Orleans to find his girl? The delicate-looking Ms. Newton has some astounding fight scenes. She can shoot a firearm like a Marine, but she can’ t seem to set Hugh’s furnace on her temperature and get him to forget Mae. Ain’t it always that way?
With your head spinning from being confused by the mish-mashed plot and the constant flashbacks, flash-forwards, and the stand-still scenes, many viewers will be reeling at the end of the film. There are so many close-ups of Hugh’s flaring nostrils and snarling mouth and throat that I felt I was getting lessons in otolaryngology. Hugh---please, stick to musicals and Wolverine movies. We love you more when you are not shouting and looking like a deranged street bum.
(Released by Warner Bros. and rated “PG-13” for strong violence, drug material throughout, sexual content and some strong language.)