Review: INHERITANCE, Nobody's Getting Anything Substantial
Lily Collins, Simon Pegg and Connie Nielsen star in Vaughn Stein's mystery-drama.
With any film (or TV show), there is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief necessary on the part of the viewer. We know certain things, in reality, could never happen, whether they be small (the amount of time it would take to drive from one location to another) or big (a huge monster lurking off the coast of Japan). With the best stories, we barely even notice the questions that might rise from the back of our head, because we are so engrossed in the story. In the bad ones, we are asking questions, and questioning the reality presented to us, so constantly, because the story just isn't enjoyable.
Sadly, Inheritance falls in the latter category. Directed by Vaughn Stein (Terminal) and written by Matthew Kennedy, it wants to be a thriller about family scandal, literal and figurative skeletons in the closet that can tear a family apart, and a horrifying secret that's bound to come out, or be far worse than anyone imagined. And certainly, some of those secrets could be far-fetched; but the construction is so fragile as to break with the smallest breath, and the characters uninteresting and unbelievable enough to have little investment in their story.
Archer Monroe, patriarch of a wealthy and influential family, has recently and suddenly died. His 30-year old daughter Lauren (Lily Collins), who somehow at her age is already the District Attorney of Manhattan and married with an 8-year-old daughter (the first of the many head-scratchers) is left with the short end of the inheritance stick. While her younger(?) brother, already running for re-election as a congressman (so he first became a congressman when he was 22?), gets $20 million, Lauren only gets $1 million. She doesn't seem to mind, given her already pretty opulant life that she also somehow hates (she claims she got where she was on her own terms). But he did leave her something else: a few clues that lead her (fairly easily) to an underground bunker, where she finds a man chained in a room.
This man, Morgan (Simon Pegg) claims that Lauren's father has kept him imprisoned for more than thirty years, after he witnesses Archer kill a man in a hit-and-run. As Archer would visit him often over this time, Morgan knows everything about Lauren and her family. While Lauren is trying a corruption case, and her brother is dodging charges of bribery, she tries to figure out if Morgan is telling the truth, and if so, what to do with him. A strange set-up, to be sure, but one with potential that sadly the story never fulfills.
I'm all for characters making mistakes - that's a lot of what drives plot and action - I find dumb characters frustrating, especially ones who shouldn't be. Lauren keeps returning to the bunker (in heels no less, though it's in the middle of the forest and houses a madman), ignoring both her job (as DA of Manhattan about to try a huge case) and her family (though to be fair this is a time-honored plot device, just usually with the genders reversed). She investigates some of Morgan's claims about her father, but never waits to confirm his identity without taking him too much at his word. The story seems to be trying to position Lauren as some kind of figure like Michael Corleone - someone who wanted to get away from their family's corruption but was unwillingly dragged back in. And yet, why should we care about what happens to her, or the rest of the Monroes?
When a plot is as fragile as this one, you need to rely on character relationships and atmosphere to keep the viewer interested. Except, there's really nothing that Morgan (at least at first) is revealing that can hurt the family. Lily could just leave him there to die and nothing would change; except that apparently she's too nice to do that. Apparently Lauren's world starts to fall apart as she learns of certain lies her father told; and yet, she's already said that she knew her family was corrupt. So what exactly does Inheritance want us to think about? How the rich get away with anything and everything? How goodness can make you blind to evil? How to never trust a man who's been chained up by the neck? The filmmakers spend so much time making sure Lauren's hair is perfectly in place and she's wearing heels and completely clean clothes (while spending time in an underground bunker) that there's no time for character development. Or for anyone to have much of a character at all. A bombshell dropped about 30 seconds before the end also suggests that no one took the time to check over the script for all of its logical inconsistencies.
You can almost see the sweat on the brows of the actors are they work as hard as they can to make this material seem exciting. Pegg especially, playing against type as the mysterious figure, in his gant frame, is trying to chew as much scenery as he can as he eeks out his scenes with Collins; so hard does he work thqt his character's transformation will elicit eye rolls instead of gasps. Collins, on the other hand, looks stoic to the point of boredom for most it (and this is an actress whose work I like a lot). And it's certainly a waste of Connie Nielson and Patrick Warburton (the latter looking as if he wandered on set by mistake).
Good mid-budget thrillers are a dying genre, and so when we do get one, it's all the more disappointing when it isn't good. Inheritance suffers from a poorly developed script and too many clichés, with a cast that, try as they might, cannot elevate the lacklustre material.