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  • Rev Horror


Dir. Terry McDonough (2024)

A Chicago detective travels to Scotland to investigate the case of a serial killer whose MO matches an unsolved case from his past.

Noir films have a long history within the horror genre, characterized by dark detective stories and often grisly killings that feature a murder mystery at the heart of the story. It's real-life horror, realistic slayings that are rarely outside the realm of possibility and more fitting with true crime than they are with the supernatural or otherworldly that usually permeates the genre. Films like Se7en are highlights, of course, but there are far more forgettable entries that are watched and then never thought of again. Damaged, a new film coming from Lionsgate and with a few big names in the cast, unfortunately falls more in the latter category, though it does have a few shining moments that may make it worth checking out anyway.

A series of brutal murders with cult-like references occur in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Detective Dan Lawson (Samuel L. Jackson) is called in to investigate. The murders are very similar to the modus operandi of an American killer who was never caught, a case that Lawson worked on and was personally attached to because his girlfriend was one of the victims. Glen Boyd (Gianni Capaldi), the Scottish Detective in charge of the case, has his own familial drama, teams up with Lawson to try to find the killer, and as the bodies continue to pile up, the two are thrust into a religious underworld filled with references to Egyptian mythology and the Antichrist.

The stars are abundant in this neo-noir thriller: we've got the aforementioned Sammy J, along with Vincent Cassell (Irreversible), John Hannah (The Mummy), Kate Dickie (Game of Thrones), and Capaldi, who also co-wrote the film. Star power, however, is not the problem here. The film struggles a good bit in its plotting, feeling like a slow burn out of necessity than by design. Very little happens through much of the runtime, and what does is unnecessarily convoluted. This isn't, in and of itself, strange in a noir film. In a movie with a fantastic idea (the cult killings) and more than enough acting chops to carry it through, however, the film fails to deliver on its promising concept despite its Hollywood potential.

It is grisly and dark as hell, however, which may be enough for some viewers. There are some truly brutal murder scenes, and it has no problem wearing its Se7en influences on its sleeve. Director Terry McDonough, who has previously helmed some episodes of shows like Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and Suits, is unfortunately no David Fincher, and he doesn't quite have it in him to pull off a film that is equally as impressive. These films generally have a twist, and this one is pretty decent. It barely makes sense within the context of the film, however, with the jumbled plot and the film's inability to determine exactly what it wants to be preventing it from fulfilling its potential.

All in all, this is still a film you'll want to check out. Sammy J and Cassell try their best, and though the film pivots to being more about Capaldi's character, he does a fine job as well. The murders are great, and the cult is creepy as hell, and that's just enough to carry the film to watchability despite its shortcomings. While this one won't be one that will stick in your brain, it's definitely a decent offering in what has at times felt like a dying genre. Film noir is still alive, though, and this one is a decent, albeit ultimately misguided, entry.

Who this movie is for: Neo-noir fans, Detective thriller lovers, Satanic serial killers

Bottom line: Uneven and failing to live up to its potential, Damaged is nonetheless watchable and entertaining, thanks in large part to its stellar cast. I'll watch pretty much anything with Samuel L. Jackson, and Vincent Cassell is an old favorite as well. There's enough grisly murder to make the film enjoyable, and I'd definitely recommend checking it out as long as the convoluted plot doesn't turn you off.

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