The second half of this month belongs to Anthony Mackie. He may not be on Falcon duty, but he’s still not quite of this world. An android in Netflix’s Outside The Wire, he teams up this week with Jamie Dornan in Synchronic to play a pair of New Orleans paramedics who discover a connection between a series of gruesome deaths.
Arriving with minimal fanfare on digital platforms after an initial outing at the 2019 London Film Festival, it deserves more attention. The pair, who are also longstanding friends, lead markedly different lives away from their demanding jobs: Dennis (Dornan) the family man with a new baby and a troublesome teenage daughter, Steve (Mackie) with little or nothing to tie him down but burdened by a difficult secret that even his best bud can’t even begin to guess. A series of horrific deaths all seem to be connected by a designer drug, the Synchronic of the title, but it’s only when Dennis’s older daughter Brianna (Ally Ioannides) disappears from the scene of one of them that Steve starts to look deeper into the mystery. And starts experimenting with the drug.
It sounds like a police procedural, but with a couple of unlikely ‘tecs, and for the first half, that’s exactly what we get. Slow burning and brooding with a colour palette and soundtrack to match, it allows the audience to see just enough – but no more – for them to know this is no serial killer situation. As the body count escalates, the paramedics find their friendship under the microscope, stretched to breaking point, but figuring out the real reason for the deaths and Brianna’s disappearing takes time. As a double act, the two actors both deliver, although it’s Mackie who has the more demanding role, one that he’s more than capable of carrying off with ease.
He needs to, because the second half is very much his show as his investigations in to the drug take him into different worlds, travelling through time in his search for his friend’s daughter. A dangerous mission, but one that holds the minimum of fear, because this is a man with nothing to lose and the two halves of the story connect well enough to make this thriller/sci-fi hybrid an interesting, if not wholly original, watch. Reflections on the miracle of life and how we should live in the moment, especially if we know our time is limited, sometimes feel too obvious and cumbersome, but we’re sufficiently engaged in Mackie’s character not to feel the strain.
In truth, the film leans a touch too much on his screen presence, because there are times when the storyline wobbles begging to be developed even further. It feels familiar, but the idea of whether chemicals can affect the physical dimension a person is present in still deserves a deeper exploration. As it stands, Synchronic is good enough, but promises more than it ultimately delivers.
Sci-fi, Thriller | USA, 2020 | Cert: 15 | Digital | 29th January 2021 (UK) | Signature Entertainment | Dir. Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead | Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Ally Ioannides, Katie Aselton.