Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Night 74° Clear
A&E >  Movies

Great cast, neat concept, promising director, but ‘Reminiscence’ is a good-looking mess

Aug. 19, 2021 Updated Thu., Aug. 19, 2021 at 4:34 p.m.

By Pat Padua Special to the Washington Post

With a knockout cast that includes Hugh Jackman, Thandiwe Newton and Rebecca Ferguson, a promising writer-director-producer in “Westworld” showrunner Lisa Joy making her feature debut and a neat sci-fi concept, “Reminiscence” has all the ingredients for electrifying summer entertainment.

But despite its considerable star power and impressive set pieces, the sprawling meditation on memory is simply an attractive mess. In a futuristic Miami whose coastline has sunk under rising tides, Jackman’s Nick runs an unusual business, with the help of an assistant (Newton): He sells the past.

Nick’s regular customers know the drill: Get in a water tank and put on a headset, and you can relive your most cherished memories. Since this retrieved content is projected in a life-size hologram, your hosts can watch, too, and they keep files of this content for easy reference.

Of all the memory-recovering joints in all the sunken cities of the world she could have walked into, the mysterious, beautiful Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) walks into this one. She claims she needs the service to help her find her car keys – but is there something else she’s looking for?

Joy’s script uses its heady premise to play with chronology; just when you think you’re watching a scene in real time, Nick emerges from his own water tank with a jolt; he’s been obsessively replaying his own data – featuring Mae, who had a whirlwind romance with Nick, but one day just disappeared.

It’s not a bad setup, however much it touches on “La Jetée,” “Vertigo,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and other memory-themed films. But the hard-boiled dystopia is overwrought, with Nick’s narration waxing purple at times. Every extracted moment, he says, is “a bead on the necklace of time.” (If you forget it the first time, don’t worry, they will recover it for you.)

It’s difficult to take your eyes off this cast, but even Hollywood’s hottest talent can’t quite sell an overripe neo-noir that plays like a TV pilot. So it’s kind of a relief when, after a corny, atmospheric first act, “Reminiscence” turns into a sci-fi action movie populated with colorful bad guys such as New Orleans underworld leader Saint Joe (Daniel Wu) and corrupt cop Cyrus Booth (Cliff Curtis). This criminal setting provides for a terrific fight scene and gives Newton’s character a chance to break out of her sidekick role.

Unfortunately, “Reminiscence” takes too many detours. For every scene that works – and there are plenty – there’s one that goes off the rails. (Speaking of which, it’s curious how, in this apocalyptic metropolis, there seems to be a fairly reliable commuter train.)

The cast keeps us interested but not enough. By the end, the echoes of “Blade Runner” that keep piling up culminate in one ridiculous recollection. You’ll remember “Reminiscence,” all right, but as much for what doesn’t work as for what does.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter

Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.