Reptile (2023)

Reptile (2023)

It’s not as taut as it could be, but this slow-burn thriller has a captivating lead in Benicio del Toro



United States of America
Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Alicia Silverstone, Allison Smith, Amy Parrish
136 min

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It’s not the most shocking thriller out there, but it’s well-made enough to make it premium viewing among other streaming titles.

What it's about

When Detective Tom Nichols (Benicio del Toro) is brought in to solve a grotesque murder case, he uncovers truths and lies that put him and his wife Judy (Alicia Silverstone) at serious risk.

The take

You could take away a lot of parts in Reptile, and it would still make sense. It’s the kind of film that leans on sound and style to justify overlong takes and teeth-grittingly predictable scenes. But all is forgiven when del Toro, who also co-writes and co-produces the film, appears on screen. He has a simmering, captivating presence that demands you keep your eyes on him even when little, if anything at all, happens. Silverstone, Eric Bogosian, and Ato Essandoh are likewise enthralling, but Justin Timberlake unfortunately does not hold the same staying power. The film is at its weakest when it tries to convince us that he plays a complex, layered man when, in fact, Timberlake relays nothing but surface-level thrills. But Reptile is at its strongest when it gives us del Toro in all his forceful glory. 

What stands out

Apart from del Toro’s sturdy performance, Reptile also benefits from a confident sense of style and sound. First-time feature director Grant Singer mines his experience from making music videos to lend Reptile a moody, almost noir-like atmosphere that helps substantiate it when the script fails. The sound design is excellent, especially when it connects everyday sounds like a knock on a door with del Toro’s escalating guilt and trauma. And while some scenes drone on for too long, they build up to an effective climax. Like a snake, the camera twists and slithers, slow to strike but deathly when the blow finally comes.  

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