Director: Vaughn Stein
Writer: Matthew Kennedy
Runtime: 111 minutes
Stars: Lily Collins, Simon Pegg, Chace Crawford, Connie Nielsen, Patrick Warburton
By Mique Watson
There’s a moment in “Inheritance” when Lauren (Lily Collins) is required to lie on the spot. She plays a lawyer here (a DA, to be more specific); she is quick on her feet and unflappable…to a point. In this specific scene, she has called 911–suddenly, she changes her mind and says: “one of my kids was playing with my phone, it won’t happen again”. It is a seemingly inconsequential scene–however, the more I thought about it, the more dangerous its implications appeared to be.
Lawyers double as, Inheritance seems to suggest, trained actors. This is a high-octane thriller, first and foremost, but also a showcase of the dangers of combining family with career (especially when this is in criminal justice and law enforcement). The film dares us to think about people like this; do they serve us, or do they use their political leverage for the interest of themselves and their friends and families?
The patriarch of the Monroe family, Archer Monroe (Patrick Warburton), mysteriously passes away. It is revealed that he has died of a heart attack, yet Lauren is suspicious because he was apparently physically fit. He leaves his daughter an envelope; enclosed in it are directions to an underground bunker. Her inheritance happens to be a mysterious man (Simon Pegg) imprisoned in the said bunker. This plunges her into a world of deceit and betrayal–family secrets upend her life and reveal shocking things about her late father.
“This is a high-octane thriller, first and foremost, but also a showcase of the dangers of combining family with career (especially when this is in criminal justice and law enforcement).”
Collins’ performance here is revelatory. She’s cold and turns down plea deals like she’s nonchalantly flicking specks of dust off her shoulder. We learn that she is actually participating in a case that–should she emerge victorious–would pretty much ensure her brother’s re-election as a congressman. She confronts the media head-on and makes it known that she is not to be tested; then, someone asks her about her dead father. The control Collins puts on display here–one moment, detached and uncaring, the next moment completely disarmed–is proof of her underestimated talent.
Lauren’s relationship with her father was an odd one: the two had apparently had conflicts on the kinds of clients she’d chosen to represent. She makes it adamantly clear that she does not intend to have anything to do with defending her father’s “rich friends”. She is constantly worried about whether or not she is a good person. These anxieties come into play when she is confronted with her father’s prisoner, Marcus (a brilliantly chilling, albeit occasionally theatrical Simon Pegg). There’s something deliciously David Fincher-esque about the scenes in this bunker–a tight, enclosed space lit with a sickeningly green tinge–it practically dares you to compare.
“Inheritance” is an intelligent, fast-paced, thrill ride. It also asks tough questions about the corruption of the justice system–both in how it is structured and in how much it actually benefits its selfish players.”
Is he a prisoner? Is he good or bad? These things are answered, but the answers are neither black nor white–the line that divides good and bad/just and unjust/fair and unfair is blurred quite frequently. Neither Marcus nor Lauren can claim to be entirely innocent; at one point Marcus even accuses Lauren of taking cases that make her feel less guilty about having been born into wealth. We learn, gradually, that wealth isn’t the only thing Lauren has been born into. Her family–which consists of lawyers, politicians and bankers, an ‘unholy trinity’–has a mountain of skeletons in the closet, be them both personal and professional.
“Inheritance” is an intelligent, fast-paced, thrill ride. It also asks tough questions about the corruption of the justice system–both in how it is structured and in how much it actually benefits its selfish players. Lauren is confronted with moral dilemmas which put both her career and family on the line. There’s a delicious sense of irony to her: she shudders at the notion that she could possibly be “just like her father”, yet when put in a compromising situation, she almost behaves in such a way that her father would too. By the end, however, Lauren seems to have a better idea of who the true monsters are. We emerge more sceptical of those in power, and just who benefits from their supposedly “benevolent” acts.
INHERITANCE is available on DirecTV now and will be available On Digital and On Demand on May 22 from Vertical Entertainment