Review: COVID thriller 'Songbird' one of the year's worst movies

Pandemic cash-in has nothing interesting to offer

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

It's 2024 and as the pandemic rages on — it has now mutated into COVID-23, which sounds like a fun time — millions of Americans are dead and quarantine is enforced by armed sanitation guards who shoot to kill. 

That's the premise for "Songbird," perhaps the worst film of 2020, and at the very least one of its most incoherent. That it's attempting to profit from a pandemic isn't even high on its list of offenses, which belong mostly to its crimes against storytelling, characters and its insults lobbed at the audience's intelligence.  

K.J. Apa in "Songbird."

This dystopian disaster stars "Riverdale's" K.J. Apa as Nico, a bike messenger who's immune to the disease, and has a bright-yellow bracelet on his arm to prove it. When he's questioned about what he's doing out in the street when all of Los Angeles is under lockdown, he can just flash his bracelet and everything's cool. Right on through, sir! Coachella bracelets routinely come under more scrutiny than this fast pass.

Nico's out to obtain a bracelet for his girlfriend, Sara (Sofia Carson), and in order to do so he has to hit up a wealthy sleazebag (Bradley Whitford, very sleazy) who is having an extremely sloppy extramarital affair with a young singer-songwriter (Alexandra Daddario) whom he's basically holding captive in a tiny apartment, and whom he visits for illicit sex appointments under mountains of PPE gear. 

Um, back to the bracelets? The sleazebag's wife (Demi Moore), who has bracelet access, sends Nico to a L.A.'s sanitation director (Peter Stormare, looking like he hasn't bathed since "John Wick: Chapter 2") to be killed, but later helps him out because nothing in "Songbird" even attempts to make sense.

At its most basic levels, "Songbird" is ineffective because it spends no time establishing its characters or the world they inhabit. Its gimmick is the pandemic, but it doesn't have anything interesting or insightful to say about it.

Is the government overreacting, is the virus containable, is this where we're headed? "Songbird" isn't interested in any of those questions, it's simply slapped together and rush-released to maximize on COVID hysteria. Its intentions are bad, its execution is worse. 

'Songbird'

GRADE: D-

Rated PG-13: for violence including some bloody images, sexual material, partial nudity and some strong language

Running time: 84 minutes

Available On Demand