Damaged : Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on April 13, 2024 in / No Comments


Rated R by the MPA for violent, grisly images throughout, language and brief sexual content. Running time: 98 minutes. Released by Lionsgate.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Lionsgate, DamagedThe trouble with David Fincher’s seminal 1995 horror thriller Se7en is that it spawned all the knockoffs. Its “serial killer taunts detectives” trope isn’t a new thing by any stretch of the imagination (reminder: Se7en was only four years separated from another linchpin detective procedural, The Silence of the Lambs), but in the words of the late Michael K. Williams’ indelible character Omar Little: “You come at the king, you best not miss.” And Damaged misses.

Director Terry McDonough’s dark – literally dark, ‘cause there are scenes where you can’t see anything –  and brooding mystery wants us to feel like it’s leading us toward some kind of surprise or “WOW!” moment. But after the script shovels so many reversals, red herrings, and pointless chases on us, by the time the climax comes, the spare bones we’ve been thrown have already been chewed clean and leave no taste behind. The film tries to get a good head of steam going as Chicago detective Dan Lawson (Samuel L. Jackson) ventures to Scotland to pick up the trail of a serial murderer who’s been dormant for five years, but the film lacks any kind of personality or purpose, languishing in despair for its entire running time.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Lionsgate, DamagedWe’re to take Lawson as a hard-bitten gumshoe whose alcoholism seems to numb whatever pain his years on the force have given him. Jackson plays him as having a little bit of light inside that comes out when he’s in his cups; otherwise, he’s content to let things go by until he sees something that warrants his whole involvement. Upon arriving in Scotland, he’s fine with Detective Inspector Glen Boyd (Gianni Capaldi) run point on this investigation, which sees young women dismembered and placed in gory, religiously-themed iconographic shapes. Lawson’s initial case in Chicago went cold, perplexing him even five years later, when new murders with this modus operandi start occurring again.

The cold, rainy Scotland climate adds a moody atmosphere in which McDonough and cinematographer Matthias Pötsch submerge Lawson and Boyd. Similar to Se7en’s weather, we don’t see the sun until later in the film, when McDonough wants to pervert our emotions and feelings regarding how the film has played out. The religious/cult-themed manner in which the bodies are displayed up the gore and squick quotient, but it’s a thread that’s picked up and dropped all too quickly. Two men – Lawson’s old partner Bravo (Vincent Cassel) and suspect McGregor (John Hannah) – are thrown into the mix to provide more people for us to consider as murderers, but they’re more perfunctory script additions than anything meaningful. And McGregor’s coy, “maybe I did and maybe I didn’t” kind of slipperiness smells of almost every other cinematic Hannibal Lecter wannabe who gets questioned by the police and gets snotty about answering.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Lionsgate, DamagedWe stay tight on Boyd as he navigates superiors, this investigation, a Yank coming in to tell him what’s what, and a barely-there marriage as he devotes more time to his work than wife Marie (Laura Haddock). Capaldi – also credited with writing duty – shifts Boyde between looking like a weathered everyman and someone well out of his depth compared to Lawson. The variances in Boyd’s tones jar us from truly getting to be with the character, leaving us unsure how to really take the guy. It’s not that he’s incompetent; it’s just that Capaldi doesn’t seem to be at home with the character, either.

It’s kind of hard finding a place to settle with any of Damaged. Terry McDonough finds his pace and just keeps going until it’s over, regardless of needing more depth or development. Not even Samuel L. Jackson – the motherf**ker-iest of all motherf**kers – can save this one; it’s not that we’re always wanting him to be who he usually is, but at least give us some meat we can grab with our teeth, man. McDonough and the screenwriters want us so desperately to get into what’s going on, but they’re too busy trying to keep us guessing instead of laying the foundation for a real game for us to be involved with and play.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on 4k or Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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