Damaged (2024)

Damaged Review


At a minimum, the multitude of copycat serial-killer movies that emerged in the wake of “Se7en” 30 years ago have figured out the bloody part; suspense, atmosphere and original narrative ideas are harder to come by. So it is with “Damaged,” which dishes out a lot of severed limbs but is unlikely to leave much of an impression scar or otherwise on viewers. 

Samuel L. Jackson and Vincent Cassel may have top billing, but Gianni Capaldi (who also co-wrote and produced) is effectively the lead as an Edinburgh detective on the trail of a killer whose crimes appear to extend those of a Chicago perp six years earlier. The character dynamics are similarly lopsided, as the convoluted story sometimes appears to mete out attention more for reasons of marquee value than narrative logic. Competently directed by TV episodic veteran Terry McDonough, this watchable yet forgettable thriller ranges from the uninspired to the implausible at a brisk clip. Lionsgate is releasing it April 12 in U.S. theaters as well as digital and on-demand platforms.

A young Scottish woman is mortally attacked at her door upon opening it for an alleged delivery person. The grisly state in which her body parts are found limbs arranged in an “inverted cross,” other Satanic symbols left behind, whole torso missing distinctly echoes that of five people previously slain in Chicago, whose murderer was never found. When another woman meets a similar fate, local investigators Boyd (Capaldi) and Kessler (Kate Dickie) are joined by Yank cop Lawson (Jackson), who had worked on those now-cold cases; he also calls in ex-colleague Bravo (Vincent Cassel), who has conveniently relocated to Britain.

Initially falling under suspicion is McGregor (John Hannah), an even nastier piece of work recently ejected from an already extreme (if ill-defined) religious sect for being “too radical.” Others spark distrust as well, including some of the investigators themselves and it probably doesn’t help that Lawson is an unapologetically sloppy drunk, his behavior explained by mourning a wife who was one of the original victims.

Koji Steven Sakai, Capaldi and Paul Aniello’s script feels like an uneasy compromise between competing visions, as well as somewhat inorganic multinational casting. While he’s fine in the role, frequently yielding center to better-known actors doesn’t give Capaldi’s character enough weight or personality to anchor the film, as it clearly intends. Jackson starts out in enjoyably playful form but later is laden with more credibility-stretching narrative baggage than he can be bothered to take seriously. Cassel and particularly Dickie are underutilized, while the primary villains make a menacing impression the screenplay doesn’t flesh out much. (Even the story’s religious angles turn out to be a red herring.) Suspense is minimal partly because most of the murder victims are introduced just to be offed their peril isn’t what interests the movie so much as lingering over gory aftermaths.

Over the past 25 years McDonough has directed many excellent series on both sides of the Atlantic, such as “Better Call Saul,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Street.” This is his first feature film to hit theaters, and it was made with all the slick professionalism you’d expect from him or any of his overqualified actors. But they’re only people, and there’s only so much they can do with material that seems to have been assembled from bits of previous, better genre exercises, then thrown together hastily and allowed to collapse eventually under the weight of twistiness in lieu of plausibility.

“Damaged” is handsomely turned in all tech and design departments; it’s too efficiently handled to be outright bad or boring though some viewers may find their eyes rolling just a bit after a while. But a lack of conviction overall reduces what should be alarming or macabre content down to a forgettable time-killer status.

Watch Damaged For Free On Gomovies.

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