'Reptile' Is a Parody of a Noir Thriller Directed by Grant Singer

Starring Benicio del Toro, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Pitt, Eric Bogosian, Karl Glusman, Domenick Lombardozzi, Sky Ferreira
'Reptile' Is a Parody of a Noir Thriller Directed by Grant Singer
Photo: Kyle Kaplan / Netflix
What the hell does this movie have to do with reptiles? There aren't any lizards in the movie (nor any mention of them that I recall), and there's no clear metaphorical significance that might link Reptile back to its titular animal. It's a seemingly meaningless yet vaguely creepy title — which says a lot about this over-stylized noir thriller, which comes off like a parody of the genre.

Reptile is a murder mystery that's deeply indebted to Gone Girl, True Detective and The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, with a dim grey filter on the lens and a comically ominous score playing throughout every moment of the convoluted, way-too-long whodunit. It's billed as the feature debut of music video director Grant Singer, although he also helmed a similarly by-the-numbers Shawn Mendes documentary a few years ago.

I won't bother describing the plot in too much detail, but it concerns a gruff detective (Benicio del Toro) investigating the death of a real estate agent, Summer (Matilda Lutz), whose body is discovered by her boyfriend, fellow realtor Sam (Justin Timberlake).

Characters exist for no reason other than to be suspicious: there's the ex-husband who collects human hair for creepy art projects, the guy with a grudge who listens to police scanners as a hobby, and the spooky church caretaker with buckets full of blood-red paint. Even the main character, del Toro's Detective Tom Nichols, has a big gash on his hand that's conspicuously drawn attention to but never pays off.

It's relentlessly dour, and the occasional joke (like a recurring gag about a motion activated sink that's initially funny but then gets beaten into the ground) only reinforces the impression that Reptile is a satire of a self-serious crime thriller. By the climactic scene, people at my screening were openly laughing at things that clearly weren't supposed to be funny — which is a better response than how I felt, which was simply bored. (Netflix)