Inheritance has plenty of the right ingredients for a solid thriller. It boasts a strong enough cast of B-list celebrities, an appropriately moody setting, and an intriguing premise. On the face of it, “Simon Pegg goes insane in a hole” sounds like the perfect springboard for an entertaining couple of hours. Unfortunately, the film never really lives up to the potential of its own conceit. Instead, it plays as a tired and predictable mashup of Parasite and The Silence of the Lambs, with a healthy dose of My Dinner with Andre thrown in to ensure things never move faster than its exposition-heavy script can handle.
In one of its rare bursts of energy, Inheritance sets itself up at breakneck speed. During a whirlwind press conference montage, we are introduced to the entire Monroe family: Archer, the wealthy patriarch (Patrick Warburton); his wife, Catherine (Connie Nielsen); daughter and idealistic district attorney Lauren (Lily Collins); and politician son, William (Chance Crawford). Archer dies almost immediately and completely unexpectedly, leaving the lion’s share of his inheritance to William, who was always the clear favorite. Lauren, in turn, receives the rich person equivalent of the short end of the stick: a mere million dollars and an envelope containing the key to all the family secrets. A flash drive leads her to an underground bunker in the woods, where she finds Simon Pegg chained up behind a chess table and made up to resemble a bedraggled Edgar Winter in a wind tunnel. Pegg’s character introduces himself as Morgan Warner, explaining that he’s spent the last thirty years as Arthur’s prisoner for witnessing a serious traffic accident and refusing to bury a body.
With all this setup wrapped up neatly in the first twenty minutes or so, the remaining film fails quite spectacularly to stick the landing. The dialogue is dull, on the nose, and punctuated by clumsily poignant phrases that were clearly written to look good on the poster. Hackneyed lines like, “the truth must stay buried,” “dig up the truth,” and “you will know the truth and you will set me free” pop up so frequently that it feels less like you’re watching a movie, and more like you’re listening to an overly eager screenwriter’s elevator pitch. Only in this case, a citywide power failure has made him ramble on for much longer than either of you planned. Major plot twists are rolled out casually in conversation with little buildup, almost as if the filmmakers anticipated that you would see them coming and didn’t see the point in wasting our time with needless suspense.
Similarly, there seems to be scant logic behind any of Lauren’s decisions, which unnecessarily put her in vulnerable positions that could become intense, but never do. Like the audience at a horror movie yelling, “don’t go into that room,” Inheritance leaves you asking questions like, “why in God’s name would anyone do that?”When Lauren leads Morgan outside at gunpoint for a nighttime driving tour of the woods, she pauses and says, “I have to take this call.” She lets her guard down during a lengthy argument with her husband about the importance of her daughter’s dance recital. Instead of seizing the opportunity – or the gun – to gain the upper hand, he simply waits patiently and non-threateningly, taking advantage of this unscheduled break to enjoy his first whiff of fresh air in thirty years. While Morgan’s simply biding his time in service of a long-term plan, it never proves clever or devilish enough to justify squandering all these opportunities to pick up the pace.
The central metaphor for the film is chess. Archer teaches Lauren that the game, like life, is constantly about forethought. You keep your edge over your opponent by thinking about where you’ll be in ten moves, or ten years. However, a better metaphor would be key lime pie Throughout the story, Morgan repeats the dessert’s ingredients like a mantra, having memorized the recipe from a magazine article. Much like reading the same recipe for thirty years, Inheritance is dry, tedious, and will ultimately prove disappointing when compared to the picture you’ve built in your head.
Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars
While Inheritance bills itself as a thriller, it ultimately proves to be as bland and one-dimensional as Simon Pegg’s American accent. The cast muddles their way through an amateurish script with lackluster performances fartoo restrained to create any real sense of menace. The result is slow, predictable, and just unrewarding. In the end, this is an inheritance that deserves to be refused.