Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) runs a small fishing boat off the coast of this island where he takes tourists out to catch the local sea life, but there is one big tuna he has become obsessed with, as he would dearly love to catch it himself. This fixation has driven him to an alcohol problem, and one day when out on the sea with his righthand man Duke (Djimon Hounsou) the two tourists they are with snare the fish he has always wanted. Baker proceeds to shove the holidaymaker out of the way, pull a knife on him when he protests, and land the tuna - almost, as it gets away at the last moment, leaving him heading back to solace in the bottle. But that's not all that's weird about this…
Somehow Serenity picked up a cult following of those who were genuinely bowled over by its big twist and pretensions to classic literature - not the Joss Whedon feature spin-off from his shortlived series Firefly, this other one a decade later that limped into cinemas under widespread ridicule from all quarters. Perhaps those fans felt sorry for it, perhaps they were dazzled by the frequent sight of McConaughey in a state of undress, or maybe - it seems unlikely, but you never know - they found this knock-off of the science fiction efforts The Matrix spawned (without the kung fu) legitimately original and though-provoking. Everyone else thought, wait, if that's what’s going on, then... why?!
It was the brainchild of Steven Knight, which made it all the more bizarre, since he appeared to have had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted with it, and he was not exactly an untried, rogue talent crashing and burning on his debut, he had written works of quality, his television series Peaky Blinders in particular enjoying great success, for instance. Here, however, with no apparent understanding of the world he was toying with, he might as well have signed this off with "And it was all a dream!", for the twenty-first century equivalent was well on display here as the online community liked to posit their theories over where technology would take us in the coming decades.
Serenity swaggered in like one of those neo-noirs of the nineteen-eighties and nineties, you know, where the movies had discovered adding sex scenes and swearing to the mix was sufficiently novel for the target audience to accept the warmed-over plots of the forties and fifties again. Baker Dill (Baker Dill?!) is visited by his ex-wife Karen Zariakas (a blonde Anne Hathaway) with a proposal: he kills her new husband (Jason Clarke), and she will be free of his violently abusive ways, as will their son who spends all his time seeking refuge from the beating online rather than engaging with the real world. Baker needs the money because he has been reduced to prostituting himself to rich older lady Diane Lane, and would prefer to be able to stand on his own two feet, but why is he getting this nagging feeling all is not what it seems?
If the twist really did come as a shock, you were not watching too closely as Knight preferred to telegraph it with crunching lack of subtlety at every opportunity. Either this was arrogance, or, more probably, he wanted to prepare the audience for having the rug pulled out from under them, yet even so it raised too many queries in the final result about how much we were being asked to swallow, or more accurately, how stupid did he think we were? Without wishing to give the whole game away, was this little boy spending his time fantasising about his father's arse? Because that was the only explanation for the sheer number of shots of the leading man's gluteus maximus that were crammed into the film. At a stretch, and this was some stretch, you could half-believe the kid was supposing what a grown-up's life would be like, but given he turns out to be as violent as his dad, or as he wanted his dad to be, you could only surmise someone was going to need years of intense psychotherapy. It was one of those films where it was clear nobody involved had stopped and asked, "Wait a minute - isn't this completely ridiculous?!" Music by Benjamin Wallfisch.