Synopsis – A patriarch of a wealthy and powerful family suddenly passes away, leaving his wife and daughter with a shocking secret inheritance that threatens to unravel and destroy their lives.
My Take – At first glance director Vaughn Stein‘s latest film, an official Tribeca Film Festival 2020 selection, which was unfortunately postponed due to the current pandemic costing its world premiere, seems to have it all to make for a deliciously tense thriller. Filled with intrigue, thrills, mystery, and twists that keep you on the edge of your seat, along with secrets, lies, and skeletons hidden deep, leaving you guessing up to the very end.
Hence you can understand my disappointment when it turned out to be really just a clunky potboiler that is weighed down by its overly ambitious story that uses fancy settings to distract from the contrivances on which it is built. The script, written by debutante Matthew Kennedy, relies too heavily on exposition, making the film feel much longer than it actually is. And all too often, it gets caught up in the thrill of its own story line, so much so that, by the end, its big reveal ends up feeling lackluster, absurd and unrealistic, serving as more of a rushed sprint to the finish line rather than taking the required time to make sure that each beat hits just right.
Yes, there are moments in the film, largely owed to Simon Pegg and his eccentric performance, that does grabs one’s attention, however, it is never enough to make it feel more than a silly TV film.
The story follows Lauren Monroe (Lily Collins), a young district attorney who also belong to a wealthy politically affluent family. While her public service has always placed her at odds with her father Arthur (Patrick Warburton), his sudden death sends the media into a circus and leaving Lauren buzzing with an abundance of questions as to what happened. Left perplexed and disappointed when she finds that in his will he has left the control of his assets to her mother, Catherine Monroe (Connie Nielsen), twenty million to her politician brother William Monroe (Chace Crawford), who himself is middle of a severe controversy, and just a million dollar to Lauren, despite having a family of her own which consists of her husband Scott (Marque Richardson) and a young daughter.
However, it is only later when she receives a mysterious flash drive from their family lawyer, Harold Thewlis (Michael Beach), she finds out about her true inheritance. Something which has to do with a bunker buried in the woods behind their family home, a bunker which contains a stranger (Simon Pegg) who has been imprisoned there for years by her father. Armed with a newfound determination to uncover the truth, Lauren finds herself torn between her loyalty to the family and her desire to rise above the corruption of power.
As any mystery should, it reveals increasingly shocking secrets one by one, with the web of lies only goes deeper and threatening to swallow our heroes. However, one must wonder if the only reason Archer even told Lauren about his basement-dweller was to corrupt her from beyond the grave, the implausibility mount as the plot gets increasingly tangled. The pace of the film is so frantic at first that it quickly gets stately and portentous, gliding through the lavish Monroe estate as people keep telling Lauren that father was really proud of her.
But, it doesn’t take long before its story feels as if it’s going to crumble under the weight of its own ambitions. It jumps into its main mystery fairly quickly, with Lauren discovering the bunker at the beginning of the film’s first half, but struggles to maintain interest as it begins peeling back more layers.
Here, it seems like both director Stein (who also directed the Simon Pegg and Margot Robbie starring letdown called Terminal) has bold ideas and lays the groundwork for them with gusto right from the get-go. With an aim to make a sharp critique of wealth while pairing them with the more heart-wrenching commentary on family dynamics and the weight of expectation.
But the the film’s tone is so haphazard and script so perfunctory and generic, it becomes hard to take anything seriously. As the film proceeds it just gets more melodramatic; making it seem like a simple pulpy thriller that wavers from original and crazy to generic and mundane, as much as Lauren seems to do with where her allegiance stands.
Thankfully, both Lily Collins and Simon Pegg bring enough enthusiasm and energy to their respective roles to keep you intrigue, even when it becomes entangled in its own mystery. Both bring a sort of cautious charm and deep humanity to their respective performances. Pegg especially leans into his role as the silver-tongued mad man and it’s his work that creates such an intriguing mystery.
In supporting roles, Connie Nielsen, Chance Crawford, and Patrick Warburton don’t have much to do, while Marque Richardson‘s role just exists to cause a few extra scenes of conflict and to deliver badly written extraneous and ex positional dialogue. On the whole, ‘Inheritance’ is an overly ambitious thriller which is not able to hide its seamy silliness.
Directed – Vaughn Stein
Rated – NR
Run Time – 111 minutes