Review by Craig Draheim
Director: Vaughn Stein
Writer: Matthew Kennedy
Starring: Lily Collins, Simon Pegg, Connie Nielsen, Patrick Warburton
The old “rich white people getting away with horrible things, but it’s justified” story. Not because what they’re doing is “good” but rather the other person(s) does such a despicable act that we’re supposed to forget about their white-collar crimes.
Inheritance tells the story of Lauren Monroe (Collins), a 30-year-old district attorney who’s the black sheep of her wealthy and powerful family because she’d rather become a civil servant than protect her legendary banker father’s (Warburton) friends. After her father’s death she is left almost completely out of his will, getting only $1million, but with the condition of taking over a secret that no one knows. Her father has been holding a man (Pegg) prisoner for 30 years. Soon Lauren battles with her morality of doing what is right, while going down the rabbit hole of her family’s lies and deception.
The movie starts with a chess metaphor between Lauren and her father discussing how in chess, like in life, you must think 10 moves (or 10 years) ahead. This instantly makes us aware of what sort of “battle of wits,” “cat and mouse” dynamic we are in for between Lauren and her dad’s captive, who goes by the name of Morgan Warner. For most of the story we get truly little of that dynamic, as it’s more Morgan revealing secrets proven to be true. From her father’s affair/love child, to her younger politician brother who is facing a campaign scandal during his reelection. “Wait, you’re telling me he is under 30 and already up for reelection?” Yes, I am.
All joking aside the first 90-minutes are an intimate morality tale of privilege that is tense in all the right places. Despite Pegg doing his “badass” or “grizzled” American accent, it was amazing to see him in something without a lick of comedy. As we are watching this righteous DA begin to cover up these scandals to protect her own, it works as a great upper-class thriller that would have been big in the late 80s and 90s. It even comes with its own Keyser Soze moment; the scene at the end of The Usual Suspects that turned a decent movie into an iconic film. And if Inheritance ended on the chess piece, connecting itself to the opening, then what a movie it would be. I’d probably be giving it a solid 4 or 4 ½. However, that’s not what happens, as another 20-some minutes of story unfold, taking that layered thriller with well-grounded characters, and twisting it into some generic plot that boils down to good vs evil. If the villain literally said, “I’m a bad guy,” it would’ve lessened them to a one-dimensional character.
The extra 20 minutes forces you to realize all the subplots that they fail to tie up, make most of all the reveals and twists feel unjustified. While I believe that anyone can write about sensitive material if it is appropriately handled, the big question is why in the end doesn’t feel earned? Maybe because you have a male writer and director attempting to shock or make a character instantaneously bad (which that act does), but it ends up feeling cheap and lazy. I’m sure you’re able to guess what subject matter I’m hinting toward, would result in a person being held prisoner for 30 years.
I don’t know. On a technical level it is outstanding. The acting is superb until the story devolves them into basic tropes. I hate putting blame on a screenwriter because scripts change exponentially from the pre to postproduction, but it comes down to less is more, and the more time I had with this movie, the more imperfections I found.
2 out of 5