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Naked Singularity (A Movie Review)


Starring John Boyega, Olivia Cooke, Bill Skarsgård, Ed Skrein, Linda Lavin, Tim Blake Nelson, Kyle Mooney, Robert Christopher Riley, Robert Bogue, K. Todd Freeman, Liza Colón-Zayas, Scott Barrows, Teddy Cañez, Tatsuo Ichikawa, Robert Lee Leng, Rao Rampilla, Joshua T. Crockett, Lee Sellars, Justin Smith, Brendan Burke, Jennifer Lim and Robia Deville.

Screenplay by Chase Palmer and David Matthews.

Directed by Chase Palmer.

Distributed by Screen Media Films. 93 minutes. Rated R.

Before you get excited by the movie title, the term “naked singularity” has nothing to do with sex or nudity. It turns out that it is a physics term which is defined “In general relativity, a naked singularity is a hypothetical gravitational singularity without an event horizon.” Honestly, I’m not sure what that means, although it is briefly explained in the movie. Nor do I really know what it has to do with the storyline of this gritty legal/heist thriller, although there is an ongoing subplot about a massive existential world event which doesn’t really seem to go anywhere, plot wise.

Perhaps it would make more sense had I read the PEN prize-winning novel A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava, which this movie is based upon. However, the signs of the world “collapse” in the movie really add little to what is going on here, and there is no real payoff to these foreshadows. Honestly, the story doesn’t need them. It has story enough without treading in those waters.

So, if the world isn’t ending (apparently), what is going down here? John Boyega (the Star Wars films, Attack the Block) plays Casi, a burnt-out New York public defender who gets deep into the underworld when one of his clients, Lea (Olivia Cooke) – a pretty-but-tough city girl who works in the city’s impound lot – is picked up by the cops for drug possession.

Lea insists that the drugs were not hers but were indeed proof that a car which had been impounded has a stash of heroin hidden in it, and that the gangster (Ed Skrein) who had stolen the drugs were planning to get the car when it is auctioned off later that week.

The problem is the real owners of the drugs are also circling around and Lea is more than happy to play all sides against each other to get what they want. When Casi and a fellow lawyer at the DA’s office realize that it could be the perfect crime because it would never be reported.

It’s a rather smart and intricate crime.

As I said earlier, the city is going through a weird set of psychic phenomena – massive rolling blackouts, the sudden infusion of light, people floating a few inches off the ground, etc. – which seems to mean something major is going wrong with the planet.

Naked Singularity is a pretty good idea, although it never quite lives up to it. It is action packed and a little overly violent, the dialogue is quirky, and the performances are mostly very good. (I’m not sure if it is just a coincidence, but three of the four leads – Boyega, Cooke and Skrein – are British actors playing New Yorkers. The fourth – Bill Skarsgård – is Swedish. All of them do well in their roles, but aren’t there enough New York actors out there?)

It ends up being pretty good, but the audience can’t help but feel that it could have been much better than it ends up being. Still, if a movie has too many ideas, that’s certainly preferable to the alternative – even if it can’t always pull those ideas off.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: October 5, 2021.


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