This is a film that wants to be so many genres, but ultimately fails at all of them.
Sergio de la Pava’s novel “A Naked Singularity” is the highly respected, award-winning book from which this film is adapted. Screenwriter and first-time director Chase Palmer‘s only true claim to fame so far has been being one of the three screenwriters for the 2017 horror film “It.” This is yet another instance of Hollywood putting the right projects into the wrong hands.
Indeed, when you look at the names attached to the film “Naked Singularity” — John Boyega, Olivia Cooke and Bill Skarsgård — there is a strong case for it being the biggest waste of talent in 2021 thus far.
The story begins with New York City public defender Casi (Boyega), who is burned out by failing to save his clients from harsh sentences by a hard-line female judge. As his world begins to collapse, he meets a parolee named Lea (Cooke), who works for the local impound lot.
Lea is dealing with the possibility of returning to prison over a parole violation while juggling the stress of a sexually harassing boss and a hookup (Ed Skrein) who is into some dangerous stuff of his own. Lea discovers that a car in impound holds millions of dollars worth of drugs. Tempted with the possibility of leaving their lives behind, they team up with Casi’s impulsive courthouse pal Dane (Skarsgård) in order to rob the criminal element and ensure their ticket to freedom.
“Naked Singularity” suffers from several subplots too many, which results in an unfocused, incoherent mess. On one hand, you have a public defender dealing with the front lines of a broken judicial system. Next, you have a young woman who is dealing with the consequences of her own actions (and the guys she sleeps with). Somewhere in the background, there is a story about stealing drugs from a band of criminals, and by the time the end credits roll, you’ll wonder what any of these stories had to do with one another.
The tone is all over the place, so you never know when or if you should be taking the film seriously. One moment Boyega is fighting the system in the courts in some hard-nosed commentary on the power of abusive judges and by end of the film, his character becomes a complete cartoon who stabs people with a katana while throwing up at the violence. Many elements of this movie work, they just don’t work in the same movie.
“Naked Singularity” wants to be something, but has no idea what that something is. What it becomes is a half-hearted attempt at social commentary mixed with a half-hearted heist film.