Friday, August 06, 2021

Naked Singularity

Last time you had to reclaim your car from the impound lot, did you think: “wow, this could be the setting of a thrilling film?” Probably not. A good part of this tale also takes place in the NYC court system, but they try to make it look as depressing as possible. There is plenty of finger-wagging and a bit of nonsensical cosmic jibber-jabber, but not much else in Chase Palmer’s Naked Singularity, which opens today in New York.

Casi is a public defender, so we are supposed to automatically assume he is pure of heart. Indeed, he is quite put out when his nemesis judge keeps sending his clients to jail, for crimes they admit they committed. His new client presents a slightly different case. Technically, Lea is a repeat customer, who requested him personally. However, she has leverage to cut a deal. As an employee of the city impound, she was approached by a sleazy criminal type for info on a towed SUV loaded with a stash of drugs.

With her help, the cops hope to bust the cartel when they buy back the black Navigator at auction, but she has a plan to double-cross everyone. Meanwhile, Casi periodically drops in on his stoner friend, who mumbles incoherently about alternate worlds and quantum singularity.

Apparently, an impound clerk with a criminal record is the only person with access to the schedule for the city’s confiscated vehicle auctions. In this contrived world, the narcotics detectives would logically never bother to contact any of her superiors, to make sure they would not cross up their plans.

Frankly, every bit of
Singularity is simplistic and unrealistic. It is also dated. These days in New York, bail is practically non-existent, even for felonies. Manhattan is poised to elect a District Attorney who will not prosecute any misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies and refuses to resign from the board of the Legal Aid Society (a clear conflict of interest). Frankly, this film is just a petulant fantasy.

John Boyega works up a little bit of indignation here and there, but his performance as Casi is largely flat and uninspired. It is hard to recognize Ed Skrein as the thug who makes overtures to Lea, but not in a good way, while Bill Skarsgård is abrasively annoying as Casi’s private attorney pal. At least Olivia Cooke shows some signs of life as Lea, but the real star is Linda Lavin, who upstages everyone as the tart-tongued judge, who is the bane of Casi’s existence.

There really isn’t much to be entertained by here, aside from Lavin. It combines a half-baked, awkwardly executed caper with holier-than-thou, didactic moralizing. This is just a bad film, in every possible way. Not recommended,
Naked Singularity releases today (8/6) in New York.