Relive review

Remember the TV series Day Break? Probably not, because it only aired for one season back in 2006. It starred Taye Diggs as a detective stuck in a Groundhog Day situation, forced to experience the same day again and again until he solves the murder of an important public official. Jacob Aaron Estes’ new movie Relive feels like that show mixed with Frequency, the Dennis Quaid/Jim Caviezel movie in which father and son communicate across time.

Selma star David Oyelowo plays L.A.P.D. detective Jack Radcliff, whose family is mysteriously murdered in the first few minutes of the film. As he mourns their deaths, he receives a seemingly impossible phone call from his niece (A Wrinkle in Time’s Storm Reid) – she’s very much alive, and is somehow calling from a few days before the murders take place. So it’s up to Radcliff to put the pieces together and prevent their deaths before they happen.

Great premise, right? But even though Relive has a killer hook, the movie stumbles through a minefield of familiar tropes and preposterous moments as its protagonists traverse its twisty narrative. Oyelowo is such a talented actor that he made me invest in this story even during its most eye-rolling scenes, bringing a palpable sadness and desperation to his performance. He’s a movie star, taking the audience along on this inexplicable ride and always remaining just grounded enough for us to stay with him. Reid, who was good in A Wrinkle in Time even when that movie faltered, pulls the same trick here; she’s a capable co-star who does what she can with a bland character, and her connection with Oyelowo barely keeps the movie afloat.

The supporting cast is solid, too – Brian Tyree Henry plays Reid’s dad, whose questionable past has come back to haunt his family, Alfred Molina appears as Radcliff’s boss (who is inexplicably forgiving of Radcliff’s unorthodox methods), and best of all, Mykelti Williamson plays Radcliff’s partner, exuding concern and compassion as he tries to be there for his friend during this wild time in his life. It’s a meatier role than Williamson’s had in a long time, and his scenes with Oyelowo are the best in the movie.

So much of the pulpy plot hinges on discovery and the slow drip of plot details, so I’ll skip the recap and instead just say that as the motives begin to come into focus, the movie starts sliding off the rails. The actors are all hanging in there, but when they’re saddled with lines like, “Promise me you’ll solve this somehow, OK?”, there’s only so much they can do. The police aspects of the story eventually tip into laughable territory, but they’re not inventive or ridiculous enough to be truly enjoyable. And weirdly, the movie lacks consistently propulsive pacing, so there are plenty of opportunities for your brain to file complaints about the logic of what’s happening (beyond the supernatural connection, which is easy to buy into).

With bursts of punishing violence that eventually border on cruelty, Relive is a formulaic, surprisingly bleak thriller that may have worked better as a TV series. Then again, as Day Break has already proven, maybe this type of premise is too tough to crack in either film or television. I’ll be patiently waiting to see if someone else gives it a shot.

Relive is a Blumhouse movie, though it doesn’t have a release date scheduled yet.

/Film Rating: 6 out of 10

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