Hollywood Movies

Samuel L. Jackson in Routine Serial Killer Flick

April 11, 20244 Mins Read

Just once, it would be refreshing to see a serial killer movie in which the detectives investigating a series of horrific murders were actually normal, well-adjusted individuals. The kind of cops who leave their work at the office, go home to their families, and drink only the occasional beer or glass of wine at dinner. The ones, in other words, who don’t live up to the title of the new thriller featuring a top-billed Samuel L. Jackson but in which the real leading player is Gianni Capaldi, who also co-scripted.

That’s definitely not the case with Damaged, a routine cop movie mainly distinguished by its extensive Scottish locations. Jackson plays Dan Lawson, a Chicago detective still haunted by a bunch of killings years earlier in which one of the victims was his own girlfriend. When a similar series of murders — in which the victims’ bodies are dismembered and various parts rearranged into the shape of a cross and accompanied by markings indicating satanic rituals — occurs in Scotland, he’s sent to lend his expertise to Chief Inspector Boyd (Capaldi) and his partner, Kessler (Kate Dickie, making a strong impression in a relatively small role).


The Bottom Line

Familiar stuff with a Scottish twist.

Release date: Friday, April 12
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Vincent Cassel, Gianni Capaldi, Laura Haddock, John Hannah, Kate Dickie, Brian McArdie, Nicolette McKeown
Director: Terry McDonough
Screenwriters: Paul Aniello, Gianni Capaldi, Koji Steven Sakai

Rated R,
1 hour 32 minutes

“We have to wait and see if the torso shows up,” Lawson advises Boyd after one victim’s body is discovered, which gives you an idea of the film’s general level of discourse. Needless to say, both Lawson and Boyd are dealing with personal demons, the former unable to control his drinking and the latter coping with his strained relationship with his wife (Laura Haddock) after the recent death of their only child.   

For further help with the case, Lawson recruits his former partner, Bravo (Vincent Cassel), who, since they worked together, has given up the bottle himself, moved to London, become a crime novelist, and designs high-tech alarm systems. (How a Frenchmen came to work as a Chicago detective is left unexplained, but since Cassel remains such a compelling screen presence it would be churlish to complain.)

Damaged gilds the lily, casting-wise, with John Hannah, delivering sterling supporting work as a chief suspect whose alibi would seem to clear him. Indeed, the film’s main strength is not its overly familiar if convoluted plotting but rather the strong performances all around. For most of the running time, Jackson delivers a nicely understated turn, even if he does manage to work in a line referencing his well-known passion for golfing. And Capaldi, who clearly intended this as a vehicle for himself, has the sort of naturally haunted-looking face that makes him perfect for his role.  

Director Terry McDonough, whose previous credits include episodes of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, knows how to put over this sort of material, even if he leans too heavily on Andrea Ridolfi’s eerie score that could easily serve as the aural backdrop to a haunted house attraction, as well as the eternally cloud-drenched Scottish locations. (You could quickly pass out playing a drinking game revolving around the establishing shots of Edinburgh Castle.)

The film’s most egregious element, however, is the ridiculous denouement, in which the killer’s identity is finally revealed, even if it does provide the opportunity for Jackson to entertainingly go into full Biblical wrath mode. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly enough compensation for the roughly 90 minutes of tedium preceding it.

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