Naked Singularity review – John Boyega offers fig leaf for bizarre legal drama

The actor toils as a crusading lawyer but not even the looming apocalypse can inject this strange film with excitement

The prospect of John Boyega playing an idealistic New York public defender in a John Grisham-style thriller is a very appealing one. But his talent deserves better than this clapped-out vehicle, a movie that constantly feels like it’s about to run out of narrative gas. The big gimmick here is a freaky sci-fi backdrop to the legal drama: unbeknown to the characters, the universe is about to implode (something to do with black holes causing ripples in space).

It begins 10 days before what is described as “the collapse”. Boyega is a lawyer called Casi who is only three years into his career but already burned out and disillusioned by the US justice system. You can spot he’s a good guy by his brown corduroy suit – Hollywood’s liberal crusader uniform. The people Casi represents don’t stand a chance. Take his latest client, a drug user who got clean while out on bail; Casi believes he deserves another opportunity. The view of his nemesis, cynical veteran Judge Cymbeline (Linda Lavin), is that the guy is healthy and therefore fit enough to send to prison for a three to six year stretch. The pair’s courtroom spats are the high point of the movie.

As Casi edges towards disbarment, one of his clients, Lea (Olivia Cooke), gets mixed up in a plan to steal drugs belonging to a Mexican cartel. The gangsters are all standard-issue and the heist is a non-starter. Meanwhile, New York City is experiencing unexplained blackouts and blips – at one point Casi levitates, his feet a good couple of inches off the ground.

But not even an impending apocalypse adds much in the way of urgency. Still, Boyega is very credible and at 29 he’s beginning to look like a leading man with real gravitational pull. Likely he’ll file this on his CV under misfire.

• Naked Singularity is released on 2 January on Sky Cinema and NOW.


Cath Clarke

The GuardianTramp

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