Reminiscence review – a watered-down neo-noir

By Marc Miller
Published: August 23, 2021 (Last updated: January 26, 2024)
Reminiscence review - a watered-down neo-noir


While Jackman and Ferguson are excellent here, Reminiscence is watered-down sci-fi neo-noir that overstays its welcome by wallowing in a romance that loses steam fast.

I liked writer and director Lisa Joy’s film Reminiscence better when called Strange Days (1994). It is an ambitious (yet at times full) film that sights on being a type of Love, Death, + Robots feature. It’s a watered-down southern sci-fi neo-noir that wants to be out of the mind of futuristic Nelsen Algren’s novel. Her film, filled with darkly crazy characters, overstays its welcome by wallowing in a romance that loses steam fast.

The problem here is Joy’s script that wants to be a slow-burn but selects turtle pace mode. Reminiscence stars Hugh Jackman as Nick Bannister, a private investigator who specializes in drawing out his client’s memories. He places them in sensory deprivation tanks and uses motivational interviewing by utilizing psychological prompts that give him and his assistant, Watts (Thandie Newton), a greater picture of what they are looking for. Or even investigating, often for the Miami district attorney (Natalie Martinez).

Joy sets the film in the future, where the rising waters of global warming have overrun coastal southern cities, and humans have become nocturnal to escape the scorching daytime heat. Jackman takes long nightlife walks in florescent-lit streets with foot-high water. Often with an all too common narration that attempts to overcompensate to give the film a moody effect.

Of course, when he was just about to close up shop, an alluring and mysterious cocktail lounge singer, Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), shows up, asking to help unlock her memories to find her keys. Hey, if a woman like this bowed up and insisted on going into the tank as naked as the day she was born, you’d do for that healthy Yelp review too.

This leads to a swift and steamy romance. As you’d expect, they have a hell of a lot of chemistry, as much as two actors can with movie star looks. Just as things seem to be going more from that wham-bam-thank-you-mam romance to the forever kind, Mae disappears. She doesn’t leave a note or have the respect to even break up with him over text. This sends Nick tumbling down the tunnel vision hole of obsession and depression. Like most guys, he can’t accept it could have maybe just been him. It’s called ego, and he has plenty of it.

From there, that’s the list for the next 90-minutes or so. Joy’s script attempts to be a walk on the wild side of dark, eccentric criminal types that do a good job of practicing punching Jackman’s well-chiseled jaw. The film is gorgeous to look at, often esthetically pleasing, and has jaw-dropping visuals that are, no pun intended, reminiscent of such sci-fi classics as Blade Runner. Joy’s film, along with the help of Paul Cameron’s (Westworld) often haunting cinematography, has synthesized a beautifully ominous tone.

The problem, though, lies in the ploy itself. While Jackman and Ferguson are excellent here — they both floor you with excruciatingly emotional scenes (Jackman, in particular) — Reminiscence runs into a wall within its own mystery. That’s a problem when this is supposed to drive the film. It had so much potential, yet frankly, becomes dull, even with the spectacular visuals.

Reminiscence is an amalgamation of films like Inception, Minority Report, and others I mentioned above. Joy’s film may leave you reminiscing about those or even memories of heat her film generated in the first place. You know what could have been.

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