There are times when a clever film is a bit too clever for its own good. That doesn’t mean it isn’t still fun—the kind of fun that stems from on off-the-wall performance from an actor whose abilities and limits we thought we knew. The film in question is Inheritance, the latest from director Vaughn Stein (who made Terminal—a pretty awful film starring Margot Robbie—a couple of years ago). The story revolves around members of the Monroe family, something close to royalty in New York. But it’s a gritty and slightly twisted performance from Simon Pegg (as one of the few characters here who isn’t named Monroe) that effectively propels Inheritance when most everything else about the movie is left in his dust.
Archer, the patriarch of this wealthy and beyond-powerful family (Patrick Warburton) dies suddenly at the top of the film, bringing together his somewhat listless wife (Connie Nielsen) and two grown children—politician William (Chace Crawford), who is running for reelection, and Lauren (Lily Collins), a noted attorney working in the DA’s office. Dear old dad had high expectations for Lauren to go into private practice and make millions in the process, but she wasn’t interested in pleasing her father, and he wasn’t shy about letting her know what a disappointment she was, even as everyone tells her how secretly proud of her he was.
At the reading of the will, Lauren is left a fraction of what brother William is given, but she is secretly slipped an envelope by the family attorney (Michael Beach) containing a final message from her father about a terrible secret waiting for only her, buried in a secret location only she would know on the property of the family’s summer estate. But rather than finding something she has to dig up, she finds a door to an underground bunker that turns out to be more of a prison for a single occupant, Morgan Warner (Pegg). Lauren is both baffled and horrified that her father kept someone imprisoned (for decades, it turns out) and the reasons for it, which I won’t spoil here.
Right off the bat, I have a few problems with Inheritance. Why wouldn’t her father give Lauren a bit more information about his captive, beyond “This is your problem now, sweetheart.”? This is perhaps the biggest question, considering that gives Archer the chance to tell whatever story he wants about why Morgan is locked up, being kept in the dark most of the time and only being allowed to eat enough each day to stay alive. Another key question related to this is: why would Lauren take Morgan’s word about any of it at all? Granted he gives her details about her father that she is able to verify, but that doesn’t make him any more trustworthy, especially since Pegg looks more feral animal than human. His gravelly, American accent is a particularly nice touch as a character trait, but it doesn’t exactly make him more believable.
The plot of Inheritance never really stops spinning its wheels, and that makes it equal parts frustrating and enjoyably unpredictable. But I’m not really sure things really add up, especially with a climactic reveal that seems unnecessary at best and really tasteless at worst. Still, it’s tough not to slow clap Pegg channeling Nicolas Cage, reciting a key lime pie recipe as his psychotic mantra at various points throughout. If you’re in the mood for something you probably haven’t seen before, you could do worse, but the mystery and drama elements of Inheritance fall flat as often as they work.
The film is now available on DirecTV, on digital and OnDemand platforms.
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