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By Hein Kaiser

Journalist


‘Damaged’: A Samuel L Jackson thriller that falls flat

Sitting through 'Damaged' is uneasy. It is tough to put your finger on why. It could be the editing that completely blasts any attempt at storytelling out of the water.


It could have been a fantastic movie. Brilliant, even. Instead, the Samuel L Jackson thriller Damaged, now streaming on Amazon Prime, is a bit average. The film is ninety-eight minutes of riveting story that has become partially disjointed by the tedium of poor editing and lame-duck direction.

When Samuel L Jackson headlines a movie, there was always some kind of guarantee that the effort will be well worth the watch. He is an intense actor that shape-shifts beautifully between characterisations and persona immersions. But in Damaged, it just never quite happens. It’s like a date gone wrong when you are expecting a home run but by third base it dawns that you just ain’t’ gonna get no satisfaction. That is the case, no matter how hard you try to enjoy Damaged.

Chicago’s unfinished business resurfaces in Scotland

The story begins with an unlikely genesis. Police in Scotland are flummoxed by the appearance of a serial killer whose modus operandi seems scarily like that of an uncaught killer that stalked the streets of Chicago years before. Now, because American detectives out-genius everyone else, of course, the Scottish police reach out to the Chicago police department for help. Ace investigator Dan Lawson (Jackson) is dispatched across the Atlantic to help nail the serial killer that he could not nab previously.

Lawson’s character is a raging alcoholic, still dealing with the loss of his girlfriend at the hands of the very same killer. He has a score to settle and pairs up with investigator Glen Boyed played by Gianni Capaldi, and a detective called Bravo who somehow appears in the picture from a loose end elsewhere in Lawson’s past. During the investigation, kills abound, with gruesome scenes littering Edinburgh.

A messy investigation and unconvincing drama

The investigation is here, there, and everywhere. Arrests are made for no apparent reason; some suspect is chased down to simply end in a senseless stand-off and gets let go. Interrogations are slapped into the sequences with little point or outcome, if only to show off the troubled mind and state of being of Dawson.

Later, when Boyed’s wife is murdered, the unfolding plot thereafter becomes curious. The tortured soul of a man who has just lost the love of his life, well, that is what you would kind of expect, never quite gets there. There is simply nothing convincing about Boyed’s need for revenge, anger, and inner turmoil. It is just a flat line of droll. Reflective moments can easily be confused for a hangover, Jackson’s brutish nature and whisky swilling character just gets nowhere.

Sitting through Damaged is uneasy. It is tough to put your finger on why. It could be the editing that completely blasts any attempt at storytelling out of the water. Likewise, it could be poor direction as there’s no real depth to anyone’s performance, character development is flimsy, and even the cinematography looks as if it was rushed; that feeling that you just have to go and pee, but trying to avoid making the trip to the WC. That is what it looks like, crassly put. A visual feast could have compensated for the entertainment poverty of the rest of the film.

Uncomfortable viewing: ‘Damaged’ misses the mark

The climax of Damaged can best be described as a happenstance moment in the film, with the aftermath and intent of irony or some other kind of conclusion missing the mark completely. Damaged is just dire all around.

And we have seen this movie before. Pick any B-grade Bruce Willis or Nicolas Cage flick. Damaged is that kind of movie, an end-of career tailpipe of mediocrity. Denzel Washington’s most recent work teetering on the same precipice, Jackson took the leap. Let us hope he does not jump again.

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