Damaged (2024) Review

Five years ago, a serial killer terrorized Chicago. Detective Dan Lawson (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, Captain Marvel) was assigned to the case but couldn’t bring the killer to justice. It left him a badly damaged man, drinking on the job and obsessed with revenge. Doubly so because one of the victims was his own girlfriend whom he discovered, her head and limbs in the shape of a cross, her torso missing.

In Edinburgh, Detective Glen Boyd (Gianni Capaldi, The Devil’s Dozen, The Lurking Fear) finds himself investigating a murder that looks to be the work of the same person. He reaches out to the Chicago PD, who are only too happy to put Lawson on the next flight to Scotland. Fortunately, there weren’t any motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane.

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Things, of course, don’t go well. The case puts more strain on Boyd’s already fractured marriage to Marie (Laura Haddock, Transformers: The Last Knight, Rage of the Yeti), Lawson can’t lay off the bottle and their one suspect (Brian McCardie, Agatha and the Truth of Murder, Filth) has an alibi. Then the killer strikes again, and this time he’s left something besides a body for them to find.

Damaged was written by a trio of writers, Paul Aniello, Koji Steven Sakai (Skeletons in the Closet, Ruthless) and Gianni Capaldi. The only one of them with previous writing credits is Sakai, and the three films I’ve seen that he worked on didn’t give me a lot of hope for this one. The director Terry McDonough, on the other hand, has a long list of credits, mostly on TV shows like Breaking Bad, The Expanse and Better Call Saul. And in a large part, the first half of Damaged feels like a fairly good police procedural show, give or take some rather gory crime scene photos of the killer’s work.

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When the former boyfriend of one of the victims comes under suspicion, Damaged starts to look like it’s going to break out of that mould. There’s a connection to a menacing religious order, what looks like a possible connection between Boyd’s wife and Lawson’s former partner Bravo (Vincent Cassel, Irreversible, Eastern Promises) who just happened to relocate to the UK after they failed to catch the killer.

Unfortunately, it lets some of the more interesting developments go to waste, and the killer’s identity turns out to be a disappointment, as is the film’s ending. They don’t ruin it, but they do leave it damaged. Which is too bad because when the script is on target it’s entertaining enough that it held my interest even though I first saw it as an incomplete work print with on-screen notes for missing dialogue, drone footage, etc. before they sent the proper screener.

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The performances by the three leads are what gets Damaged through its rougher stretches. Jackson and Capaldi play off of each other nicely. While he has more limited screen time, Cassel is excellent in the supporting role. He has especially good chemistry with Haddock, and more should have been done with their characters. His scenes with Jackson near the film’s end are another of the film’s highlights.

What we’re left with is a decent but flawed thriller that should have been a lot better than it is. It has some excellent performances and enough good ideas to hold your interest up until the end, But the writers made some odd choices, leaving some interesting plot threads underdeveloped and dropping some ideas almost as soon as they were raised. It still makes an OK weekend afternoon rental, but you may find the wasted potential frustrating.

Lionsgate will release Damaged in theatres and to VOD and Digital Platforms on April 12th.

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Our Score

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