Review: Past, future collide in visionary but dull 'Reminiscence'

Hugh Jackman, Thandiwe Newton and Rebecca Ferguson star in debut feature from "Westworld's" Lisa Joy.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Part "Inception," part "Minority Report" and part "Strange Days," with a handful of other signposts baked in for good measure, "Reminiscence" is never more than the sum of its influences. 

In her feature film debut, writer-director Lisa Joy, a co-creator on HBO's "Westworld," creates a convincing post-global warming world where Miami is submerged in water and the classes are separated by wet and dry land ("sink the barons" is the graffiti stand-in for "eat the rich"). Too bad it's all in service of a gruff detective noir that plays like a well-thumbed dime store paperback, each storytelling cliché more telegraphed than the last.   

Rebecca Ferguson and Hugh Jackman in "Reminiscence."

Hugh Jackman plays Nick Bannister, a detective who deals in people's memories, and lets clients relive their past by submerging themselves in a water tank and hooking up to a headset that lets their thoughts play out like a theater of holograms. His partner is the hard-drinking Watts ("Westworld's" Thandiwe Newton). 

Nick's world is upended when he meets a mysterious dame, Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), who comes into his office with a story about losing her keys. She's a lounge singer (of course she is) caught up in some shady dealings (surprise, surprise), and Nick becomes obsessed with getting to the bottom of her and her case, which involves a criminal (Cliff Curtis, riffing on young De Niro), the murder of an innocent woman and a kidnapping. 

Joy's world-building and visuals are impressive, but the story, along with Jackman's hard-boiled narration, hold it back. Why create an intriguing futuristic universe just to serve a story that feels like it's set in 1920s Chicago? In "Reminiscence," the past is always a little too present.




Rated PG-13: for strong violence, drug material throughout, sexual content and some strong language

Running time: 116 minutes

In theaters and on HBO Max