In the picture

March 15, 2020

A strong performance by Elisabeth Moss powers the uneven The Invisible Man; Spenser Confidential is a bland, formulaic action flick.

The Invisible Man

Staring: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, and Michael Dorman

Directed by Leigh Whannell

Tagline: What you can’t see can hurt you

If you need proof that a terrific actor can massively elevate the material they’ve been given, then look no further than The Invisible Man, a horror thriller that is driven by a riveting performance by actress Elisabeth Moss.

The film begins with Moss’s character, Cecilia, fleeing the house of her controlling, abusive partner, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who is a tech entrepreneur celebrated for his ground-breaking work in optics. With the help of her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer), Cee takes refuge at the house of her childhood friend, James (Aldis Hodge). She is petrified that her ex will come after her until two weeks later when Adrian seemingly commits suicide.

Adrian’s will, handled by his brother, Tom (Michael Dorman), leaves $5 million to Cecilia and gives her the hope that she can now move on with her life. But creepy things soon start happening around her, leaving her to wonder if Adrian is somehow tormenting her. The people around her are certain that he is dead, whereas Cecilia is convinced that he is alive and is using his optics expertise to become invisible in order to harass her.

It’s the psychological tension in the first half of the film that works rather well as the terror of the situation becomes more and more palpable. As things progress though, the movie takes a few wrong turns and ends up in fairly formulaic territory. A predictable twist then leads us to a somewhat underwhelming ending.

Not all of it feels entirely convincing, but Moss makes sure that the project remains fascinating with her intense performance.

The Invisible Man does leave you wishing, though, that Leigh Whannell had managed to maintain the film’s anxiety-inducing tension till the end, since the psychological horror elements are so much more interesting than the eventual revenge thriller turn. Still, the film earns points for providing a new spin on the ideas of its source material, and an impressive lead performance ensures that the otherwise uneven movie remains worth a watch.

Spenser Confidential 1/2

Staring: Mark Wahlberg, Winston Duke, Alan Arkin, Iliza Shlesinger, Bokeem Woodbine, Donald Cerrone, Marc Maron, and Austin Post

Directed by Peter Berg

Tagline: The law has limits. They don’t.

Director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg have teamed up once again. Their fifth collaboration sees them resurrect Robert B. Parker’s Spenser by way of a very loose adaptation of Ace Atkins’s novel Wonderland.

Portrayed by Wahlberg, Spenser here is a police officer who gets into an altercation with his captain, John Boylan (Michael Gaston), after discovering that the latter has been involved in domestic violence. A five-year prison sentence later, Spenser is released from captivity, but on the very day of his release, two cops are murdered, including the aforementioned Boylan.

In a bid to find out what actually happened, Spenser teams up with his new roommate, Hawk (Winston Duke), and, with a little help from his mentor Henry (Alan Arkin), investigates the crime, hoping to clear an innocent man’s name and take down the actual guilty parties.

Things unfold pretty much as you’d expect. Despite the random insertion of a conspiracy in the second half, the overall outcome remains predictable. There isn’t anything particularly original about the project, nor is it terribly exciting. There are a few jokes that work but for an action comedy, the humour is often lacking and the overall film never settles on a consistent tone.

Wahlberg’s acting is serviceable if unexceptional. Duke, however, isn’t particularly memorable; Iliza Shlesinger (who plays Spenser’s ex) overacts and is distracting; and an unconvincing Austin Post (a.k.a. Post Malone, portraying an adversarial inmate) doesn’t exactly leave you looking forward to his next acting gig.

There’s nothing really special about Spenser Confidential, and those familiar with the character the movie is based on may be even more critical of this incarnation, but if you’re looking for a generic action flick to while away an evening, then this otherwise bland episode just might fit the bill.

Rating system: ☆Not on your life ☆ ½ If you really must waste your time ☆☆ Hardly worth the bother ☆☆ ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only ☆☆☆ Good enough for a look see ☆☆☆ ½ Recommended viewing ☆☆☆☆ Don’t miss it ☆☆☆☆ ½ Almost perfect ☆☆☆☆☆ Perfection

In the picture: Review on The Invisible Man, Spenser Confidential