Matthew McConaughey, Jason Clarke and Djimon Hounsou in Serenity (Photo: Aviron)

★ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Steven Knight
STARS Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway

Just how absolutely ludicrous is the big twist in the new thriller Serenity? It’s so head-smackingly stupid that I had to check the credits to see if M. Night Shyamalan was listed anywhere. Instead, the culprit is Steven Knight, a gifted scripter responsible for such original efforts as Dirty Pretty Things (for which he earned an Oscar nomination), Eastern Promises and Locke.

It’s one thing to think outside the box; it’s another to deliberate beneath the barrel. Serving as both writer and director, Knight has come up with a movie whose originality is thoroughly obliterated by its idiocy. It starts out in familiar neo-noir fashion, as Matthew McConaughey plays a fishing boat captain who’s asked by his ex-wife (a bored Anne Hathaway) to murder her abusive husband (Jason Clarke) for 10 million dollars. As he contemplates whether to execute the dirty deed, he’s given advice by his conscientious best friend (Djimon Hounsou) and pursued by a strange businessman (Jeremy Strong) sporting a briefcase.

Were I a kinder man, I would just go ahead and offer a spoiler and save everyone valuable time and money. But since the critics’ code prevents blatant reveals, let’s just say the movie doesn’t have as much in common with a neo-noir as it does with Neo, the protagonist in that highly popular and influential trilogy starring Keanu Reeves. The plot pirouettes effectively neutralize any emotions we might be feeling toward any of these characters, and it leads to a final half-hour that’s as daft as anything found in an Ed Wood turkey. Indeed, about the only thing missing is a shot of McConaughey bellowing “Pull the string!” while a herd of buffalo — or, in this case, a school of tuna — parade across the screen.

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