HBO Go review: Sultry 'Reminiscence' mixes film noir, sci-fi

Fred Hawson

Posted at Oct 09 2021 10:40 AM

Hugh Jackman in 'Reminiscence'
Hugh Jackman in 'Reminiscence'

In a future time, half of Miami is submerged underwater. Nick Bannister provided a service which allowed people to revisit a cherished past event realistically via holographs, a business he ran with his assistant Watts. One night, a beautiful client named Mae came in wanting to find her lost keys, and Nick fell hard for her. When Mae suddenly went missing one day, Nick went through literal hell as he obsessively searched for her.

Even if the setting was in the future with a piece of science fiction machinery playing a central role in the plot, the formula of post-World War II era noir film are all right there. Hugh Jackman was the alpha male investigator Nick, and Rebecca Ferguson was the gorgeous femme fatale Mae, the two essential characters of a classic noir, like Bogart and Bacall in "The Big Sleep" (1946) or MacMurray and Stanwyck in "Double Indemnity" (1944). 

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Aside from his trench coat and his five o'clock shadow, Hugh Jackman had that requisite cynical world-weary attitude and the obsessive investigative drive in his eyes. Rebecca Ferguson was paired with Jackman before in the film "The Greatest Showman" (2017) as operatic diva Jenny Lind. While her songs as Lind were dubbed by another singer, it was Ferguson's sultry singing voice we hear as slinky lounge singer Mae. 

Completing the languid and steamy noir atmosphere were the classy production design and glamorous costumes. The flooded streets of Miami looked good, but not really integral to the plot. Nick's voice-over narration of his story was tended to be overly melodramatic with poetic metaphors. Standing out in the supporting cast were Thandiwe (formerly spelled as Thandie) Newton played Nick's devoted assistant Watts and Daniel Wu as bilingual gangster Saint Joe. 

However, the storytelling style by director Lisa May turned out too convoluted, tedious and boring, more style than substance. The pacing of the middle section lagged so badly, it failed to be gripping, wasting all the build-up in the first act. 

The final act was basically a prolonged exposition of what Mae really did based on the memories of the unmemorable antagonist (Cliff Curtis) in order to justify Nick's ultimate course of action.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."