Mindcage (2022) Review
Martin Lawrence (Bad Boys, Wild Hogs) is known for his comedic roles, but in Mindcage he plays it straight as Detective Jake Doyle who along with his partner Mary Kelly (Melissa Roxburgh, The Marine 4: Moving Target, Star Trek Beyond ) is tracking down a serial killer whose handiwork we see in the opening scene, a woman’s body turned into a statue in a church.
The killing looks like it was inspired by the work of a previous serial killer Arnaud Lefeure (John Malkovich, Rogue Hostage, White Elephant), better known as The Artist. Jake put him away years ago though and he’s scheduled to be executed in two weeks. After another victim is found, transformed into an angel, and attached to a locomotive the decision is made to try to get help from Lefeure.
If this makes you think of Silence of the Lambs you’re not alone. Writer Reggie Keyohara III (The Cargo, The Recall) and director Mauro Borrelli (The Ghostmaker, WarHunt) put the focus on Kelly as she deals with The Artist as well as her own issues. The film tries to wring maximum tension out of their scenes as he begins to get inside the head of the inexperienced detective. There’s even a scene where Lefeure turns the tables, interrogating Kelly about her dying father who she refuses to visit. But it feels so much like an imitation of something better I expected Malkovich to start shouting “Quid Pro Quo!”
For his part, Jake has unresolved issues with The Artist related to the apparent suicide of his partner, a death he witnessed. Or perhaps he didn’t, his account differs from the official one. He pops all manner of prescription meds and acts generally unstable. He might as well have “PTSD” tattooed on his forehead the characterization is so unsubtle. Part of this may however be due to Lawrence’s performance, he seems to struggle playing a serious character and frequently seems out of his depth as well as his element.
Unfortunately, the characters Mindcage needs to shine both fall short. The Copycat’s identity is kept a mystery until the end and what little we see of him is anything but interesting. And Malkovich is uncharacteristically flat as The Artist. Given that the character is a religiously obsessed serial killer there was plenty of opportunity for him to give him menace or intrigue. He does neither, leaving a void where a compelling adversary should be.
On a more mundane level, there’s a homeless man (Chris Mullinax, Hell on the Border, Monstrous) who begins stalking Kelly. And then to raise the stakes going into Mindcage’s final act The Copycat kidnaps a much higher profile target than the sex workers he usually preys on. Not the daughter of a politician, but the Lieutenant Governor (Nellie Sciutto, Cherokee Creek, Satanic Panic) herself.
When we finally find out just what is going on it did catch me off guard despite a few rather vague hints along the way. Once again, it was done better. this time by a certain 70s cult film whose title will give it away. And several times since then for that matter.
Unfortunately, none of it works and Mindcage just lethargically shuffles from one overly familiar plot point to the next. The characters aren’t particularly engaging and have little in the way of backstory to help us care about them or what’s happening to them. And for all Keyohara and Borrelli try to liven up the proceedings with voodoo ceremonies what it really needed was stronger characters and a less derivative plot.
Lionsgate released Mindcage today in select theaters as well as on VOD and Digital platforms. Blu-rays will be available on January 24th. It isn’t a mystery how to find more films like this, just check with FilmTagger.