Will Grady (Justin Timberlake) is a Scarborough real estate mogul who is dating an agent named Summer (Matilda Lutz). They flip foreclosures on expensive homes in the area, under the watchful eye of Will’s mom Camille (Frances Fisher), and there seems to be some brewing tension in the relationship. One day, Will comes to meet Summer at a house she’s showing and finds her brutally murdered.
The suspects line up quickly for Detective Tom Nichols (Del Toro) and his partner Dan Cleary (Ato Essandoh). First, Grady couldn’t be creepier—Timberlake leans way too hard into the slimy silver spoon kid background of the kind of dude who lines up a new girlfriend who looks a lot like his dead one almost immediately. Will is clearly into some shady shit, but he found the body, right? Or did he? Could it be Summer’s soon-to-be ex-husband Sam (Karl Grusman)? He too is sketched as a few cards short of a full deck, introduced on CCTV footage cutting a stranger’s hair so he can turn it into art. Yeah, he’s weird. That’s not it! The cavalcade of creeps on the suspect list also includes Eli Phillips (Michael Pitt), a guy whose dad got screwed on a Grady deal. Did he kill Summer to get revenge?
As if that trio of potential murderers isn’t enough, the script by Singer, Benjamin Brewer, and Del Toro himself fills out a massive cast with the people in Tom’s orbit, including his wife Judy (an effective Alicia Silverstone), who helps him work angles on the case in some of the film’s best scenes. She’s fearless and intellectually engaged by discussing the case. She knows and loves Captain Robert Allen (Eric Bogosian), Tom’s boss, who is introduced with an MS diagnosis. Yes, this is one of those scripts where everyone has an instantly identifiable trait that tries to take a traditional character just a bit left of center, but it’s all over-written, exaggerated stuff that only reminds you that you’re in a movie.
Of course, it’s perfectly fine to be aware of a writer’s voice and director’s eye while watching a film—no one would say someone like Fincher is just quietly observing—but the problem with “Reptile” comes down to style vs. vision. There’s plenty of style here but it never feels like anything coheres into an actual vision. The great Mike Gioulakis (“It Follows,” “Split”) slides his camera through these imposing spaces, but to what end? Does it mean anything? The abundant style of “Reptile” feels increasingly hollow as its overlong 134 minutes unfold. Instead of tightening its grip, it tries to hold onto too many things at once and lands none of them, leaving subplots unresolved and characters inconsistent.