I’m “biast” (con): …but I should have known better
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
There isn’t a single moment that rings true in the laughably ludicrous attempt at a thriller that is Inheritance, a movie simultaneously as generic as its name — you’ll scroll for a long time before you get to the end of the IMDb’s list of identical titles — and as accidentally derisively derivative as… well, as any film that feels as if it were made by a couple of precocious teens who’ve seen a handful of psychological suspense mysteries and thought they’d give their own a shot. I guarantee you that first-time screenwriter Matthew Kennedy’s logline, his quick pitch, for this movie, was “something-something meets The Silence of the Lambs,” which… LOL.
The absurdity starts with the notion that Lily Collins — just 30 years old, could pass for about 16, and looks as if she’d keel over if you glanced at her funny — is in any way plausible as *checks notes* the Manhattan district attorney. I’m not slighting the actor; she is simply woefully miscast in a job that, for comparison’s sake, Sam Waterston played to steely perfection for years in Law & Order. (For this I blame director Vaughn Stein, for whom this is an ignominious followup to his dreadful 2018 sci-fi noir Terminal. He could have cast… differently.) This is not a role for a young person, either as an actor or as a real-life public servant. Maybe we could believe Collins (Tolkien, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) if Inheritance gave her even the slightest opportunity to prove that her character could have defied enormous odds to become New York’s first female DA, and by all appearances its youngest, by far… but it never does that. A woman — anyone, but especially a woman — in this position would have to be incredibly tough and resilient, but Collins’s Lauren Monroe continually shows herself to be both hopelessly naive and really kinda stupid. She would have, merely as a low-level prosecutor, long since been eaten alive by a single reasonably conniving criminal defendant — as this movie ends up amply demonstrating — never mind NYC’s legendarily sharkish political machine.
I think there’s an implication here that her connected family — dad Archer (Patrick Warburton [Ted 2, Mr. Peabody & Sherman], criminally wasted) was some sort of notorious “banker,” before his untimely death; brother William (Chace Crawford [All About Nina, What to Expect When You’re Expecting], also hilariously miscast) is a congressman running for reelection — somehow aided her rise to power. Still: all the nope. The family dynamic makes even less sense once we get to the meat of ths preposterous movie: that Dad, in his will, left Lauren a particularly unusual legacy. It involves “a secret you must carry to your grave,” Archer implores Lauren in the eyes-only video he left for her. “The truth must stay buried.”
This truth is a cruel one for her to be saddled with; as someone later notes, her brother would have been much better suited to deal with such a situation. So we’re left with the likelihood that Archer was being deliberately cruel to Lauren, or — as we see how Lauren deals with this truth — that she is, in fact, as awful a person as her father was, contrary to the do-gooder persona she presents to the world. Yet the film does absolutely nothing with either of these possibilities. Movies about terrible people can be interesting, even fascinating and riveting (see the aforementioned The Silence of the Lambs). But no one here is even convincingly terrible to start with, and nothing they do — or that it is revealed that they have done — ever hits you with the frisson of alarm that everything that happens here demands. You should exit this movie with a horrifying hint at the darkness that humanity is capable of. You don’t.
As all this is going on, Lauren is confronted by the reality of a twisted relationship that her father had with, er, an old family acquaintance, in the form of Simon Pegg’s Morgan Warner. It pains me to think that Pegg — whom I continue to inexplicably adore even though he simultaneously continues to insist on appearing in so many deeply bad movies (Star Trek and Mission: Impossible flicks are the only recent exceptions) — clearly went all out here in so many ways as a performer (probably don’t click on that link, which could be a bit of a spoiler). Pegg (Slaughterhouse Rulez, Ready Player One) gives everything here, in a role that could be seen as somewhat analogous to Anthony Hopkins’s in Lambs, and does not embarrass himself therein. But he deserves a movie worthy of such effort. And this ain’t it.
Literally nothing works here. Not the dialogue (sample: “You’re the district attorney of Manhattan”/“I’m your sister!”). Not the intercutting of two different characters’ circumstances, the attempted likening of which which verges on the offensive. Not the usage of a trauma particular (if not exclusive) to women deployed as a twist meant to be gasp-inducing in a way that renders it ridiculous in context. Inheritance almost has to be seen for its terribleness to be believed. But don’t let me stop you from avoiding it.