Director: Chase Palmer
Cast: John Boyega, Olivia Cooke, Bill Skarsgård, Ed Skrein, Tim Blake Nelson
Runtime: 1 hr 43 mins
Rating: NC16 (Coarse Language and Some Drug Use)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 11 November 2021
Synopsis: Adapted from the epic, fierce, and hilarious PEN - prize-winning book, NAKED SINGULARITY tells the story of Casi (John Boyega), a cocky young public defender whose idealism and sense of self begins to crack under the daily injustices of the justice system he’s trying to make right, just as the very foundations of the universe might be cracking apart around him.
We had not heard of Sergio De La Pava’s novel of the same time before this, but after sitting through one-and-a-half hours of writer-director Chase Palmer’s misshapen adaptation, we’re not quite sure what Palmer had intended or why he had even attempted this sci-fi crime caper.
The title itself refers to the collapse of the universe, when space and time will somehow rearrange themselves, but the reference ultimately proves to be such a non-event that you’d feel cheated waiting the whole movie for it to happen; instead, much of the movie revolves around the existential crisis of one cocky but rumpled young public defender named Casi (John Boyega), who is sickened by the criminal justice system he had initially set out with idealism to be a part of.
Casi’s unhappiness is exemplified by his testy exchanges with an apathetic judge (a wonderful Linda Lavin), who can hardly care about giving his clients the benefit of the doubt (and would rather that they simply accept the public prosecutor’s plea bargain). Things supposedly take a turn for the unpredictable when Casi is called to defend a recovering criminal Lea (Olivia Cooke), who gets herself caught up in some messy drug business involving a one-time fuck buddy Craig (Ed Skrein), the Mexican cartel, the Jewish mob and some crooked cops.
As intriguing as that may sound on paper, the execution is an utter and complete mess. There is little to no coherence to the heist subplot, which ties itself in knots it never knows how to get itself out of. Worse still, it further complicates the whole clash of competing interests by throwing in a parallel plot by fellow cokehead public defender Dave (Bill Skarsgård) to rob the drug dealers.
There is also little the sci-fi elements add to the story, most of which are lazily relegated to Casi’s reclusive stoner friend Angus (Tim Blake Nelson). It is less fascinating than frustrating to hear him spout such diatribe as “I’m telling you: things that used to have no mass, now suddenly do. Like punishments that don’t fit the crime”; and as critical as they are meant of the current justice system in the US, there are probably a million better ways that the same message can be delivered.
We won’t deny – we hated this film through and through; we hated the plotting; we hated the pretentious dialogue; and most of all, we hated how such credible actors as Boyega, Cooke and Skrein could have participated in such a farce. Here’s the naked truth about ‘Naked Singularity’: avoid it like it can crush the very life out of you.
(An utterly ridiculous and pointless mishmash of sci-fi and heist thriller, this crime caper belongs in the dumps)
Review by Gabriel Chong