The film takes place on Plymouth Island, a tropical isle where the sugar cane sways and zydeco music plays. Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughy), despite having an awesome porn star name, is an ex-vet fishing boat captain with an Ahab-like obsession for a big tuna roaming the coast who he’s named Justice. So great is Baker’s obsession with the fish that he can’t earn money chartering the boat when Justice is near and blames his bad luck capturing the fish on his right-hand man Duke (Djimon Hounsou), whose wife’s death Baker believes has cursed them into never catching Justice.
Left with little money other than what Constance (Diane Lane) gives Baker for gigolo services rendered, Baker seeks solace swilling rum out of a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug and wistfully remembers moments with his son. The past Baker has escaped soon resurfaces when his ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) appears on Plymouth Island and offers Baker a deal: kill Karen’s sadistic husband Frank (Jason Clarke) and collect $10 million.
Under the guise of a steamy film noir, “Serenity” plays out like a bad Spanish soap opera. The script has nothing but broadly-drawn characters, allowing McConaughy and Hathaway to overact badly: scenes of the Oscar winners chewing scenery as Baker’s tortured soul is pitted against Karen’s manipulative sex kitten make you forget the two won acting awards.
Adding to the mystery of how “Serenity’s” script attracted an all-star cast is the mystery within the plot, a Twilight Zone-twist so outrageous a scene is written to reiterate what’s going on (not for any of the characters to understand but for the audience to accept the audacity of what they’re witnessing).
Audacious is the word for “Serenity”- it’s laughably bad (had it not been, I probably would have checked out of the movie early). Coming from writer/director Steven Knight (who wrote Stephen Frears’ “Dirty Pretty Things” and David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises”), it’s especially surprising how deep one has to delve to be this ludicrous.
With the film’s release coming halfway between Martin Luther King Day and Black History month, the Reverend King himself may have summed up this movie best: “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Unfortunately, “Serenity’s” ‘justice’ is simply a big, rotten fish.