Hugh Jackman is just one of many faces we’ve not seen for a while. Aside from trading insults with Ryan Reynolds over social media in their long-running “feud” he’s been comparatively quiet. His last major film role was in 2019’s Bad Education, which went straight to HBO, scuppering his chances of a shot at an acting Oscar. It won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Television Movie but, although Jackman got a Best Actor nod, it didn’t translate into a trophy.
He’s in familiar and welcome company in Reminiscence, reunited with his The Greatest Showman co-star, Rebecca Ferguson, in a post-dystopian detective thriller rooted in the classic noirs of Raymond Chandler. In a Miami that’s been partly submerged by the sea and which still suffers from the aftermath of a world war, he’s a soldier-turned-detective who investigates people’s memories. Through his door sashays the beautiful Mae (Ferguson), trying to work out where she lost her keys and he’s her only option for finding them. Not the biggest case he’s taken on, true, but he’s instantly smitten, so what the heck. The two quickly become lovers and he’s devastated when she suddenly disappears so, in an effort to track her down, he becomes a compulsive user of his own memory delving technology. It leads him into the underbelly of the city and a crime web that affects its entire population.
At a time when climate change is high on the news agenda, there’s a certain topicality of being faced with the type of landscape that we’re told could easily become a reality. Visually, it makes for an arresting panorama, full of strong images that create a tower block version of Venice, and striking shots of night time, when the city comes to life. Apparently, because it’s so hot during the day, nobody goes out, so everything happens nocturnally. Whether people sleep in the daytime, though, is open to question because there’s no sign of air conditioning. It’s one of the niggling holes in the narrative.
Despite its futuristic packaging, there’s no escaping right from the outset this is a riff on Philip Marlowe. The film starts with a narration from a gruff voiced Jackman, but one noticeably lacking the crisply dark turn of phrase that characterised Chandler’s novels. It cries out for it, but in vain. Like the famous PI, Jackman’s Nick is completely taken in by Mae, unable to see through the clumsy “lost keys” ruse, or to see exactly what’s under his nose. We, however, can and we have a pretty good idea what’s coming so, as a premise for a two hour movie, it starts to wear thin far too soon. It is, however, blessed with two leads who are as magnetic as ever and still retain the chemistry we saw in The Greatest Showman.
It has to be said that Jackman has trouble in shaking off his best known alter-ego, Logan. Whenever he takes off his shirt – which is often enough to keep fans happy – he reveals that trademark vest and there’s the instant expectation that his mutant manicure will put in an appearance. It’s a distraction – an annoying one – given his talents as an actor, and it’s one that sums up the film as a whole. While it’s watchable enough, Reminiscence could have been so much more and both Jackman and Ferguson deserve better.
Thriller | Cert: 12A | Cinemas, 20 August 2021 | Warner Brothers |Dir. Lisa Joy | Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis.