Reptile is a stylish and slow-burning detective procedural that follows a mysterious detective caught in a den of deceit. Co-Written by and starring Benicio Del Toro, this latest from Netflix is made in the likeness of other detective thrillers like Zodiac and Prisoners, but with a lot more modern visual flare. While it certainly doesn’t reach the same level of prestige as the films it emulates, Reptile still manages to keep you guessing for most of the film, despite heavy-handedly serving you clues in any number of cinematic fashions.
Real Estate agent Will Grady (Justin Timberlake) is shocked to discover the body of his lover and coworker staged and stabbed in the middle of an open house. When detective Tom Nichols (Benicio Del Toro) takes on the case he realizes that there are many layers to the mystery, finding threads to pull in the most unlikely places. No one is safe and everyone is a suspect until Tom can figure out what’s really going on and who is to blame for the murder of the young woman. With a mysterious past of his own, the detective is racing against the clock to put the pieces together before it’s too late.
First time director Grant Singer came to play with his debut feature film, showing more confidence and style than many first timers. Having spent the last decade directing most of the music videos for The Weeknd, Singer already had a style and look to the stories he would film and that’s translated to film well. Even if Reptile ends up having a bit more style than substance, the film looks terrific, and a lot of the shots are as impressive as they are familiar. Singer evokes feelings of watching the works of David Fincher and even sprinkles in some True Detective atmosphere to really tie his picture together.
Reptile has an intriguing premise at its core, and it delivers on most fronts, however it’s clear that it would’ve benefited from a tighter runtime and a bit less mimicry. With a more focused narrative and fewer comedic distractions, this would make for a fantastic first outing. Benicio Del Toro completely anchors the film, and his performance keeps you engaged the whole time, while also keeping you guessing as to what his true motives are. For a slow burn, Reptile is still pretty enjoyable and makes for a fun watch at home with friends and family.
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