Reptile stars Alicia Silverstone, Benicio Del Toro, and Justin Timberlake in a long and complicated tale of murder and corruption. We get a primo dose of Benicio Del Toro as the stoic, brooding homicide cop Tom Nichols in this one.
Reptile as a title was a bit too precious for me. Although there was a snake skin lying about in one scene, the title apparently refers to the fact that people are not what they seem. As Tom Nichols finds them out they “shed” their skin and reveal who they are.
Tom is married to Judy (Alicia Silverstone). The have a large circle of friends – all police – they socialize with and are related to. Capt. Allen (Eric Bogosian) and Wally (Domenick Lombardozzi) are long-time co-workers of Tom’s and he trusts them completely. He has a partner named Dan Cleary (Ato Essandoh).
The initial crime in Reptile is the murder of a real estate agent in an empty house. She was living with Will Grady (Justin Timberlake), also a real estate agent. He’s quick to point fingers at her almost-ex-husband and a slimy looking guy who claims Will and his real estate millionaire mother Camille (Frances Fisher) are crooks.
As Tom and his partner investigate the ex and the slimy dude, they notice some odd things about the dead woman and Will and his mother. Funny things happen when they follow the money, houses are seized in dodgy ways. Drugs enter the story. But the part that disturbs Tom the most is how his friends in the police department behave about the facts in the case. Is something illegal going on there? He wants to know, but he doesn’t want to know.
The film takes a slow and measured stroll through the investigation. Tom figures out who is telling the truth, who is lying, who is a crook, and who is a murderer. The closer he gets to the truth the more danger he’s in.
The overall feeling in this film is always dread and danger, even in scenes that should be benign. It holds the tension and the mood in tight focus. I would like to have Alicia Silverstone’s character do a bit more, even though she was integral to the plot in this heavily male story.
If you enjoy Benicio Del Toro and/or a well-written police procedural this film is just what you’re looking for. It’s streaming on Netflix.