Review: ‘Damaged’

Samuel L. Jackson Crosses The Pond to Ireland To Chase A Serial Killer

Thanks in part to the brilliance of Season 1 and Season 5 (and maybe Season 4) of True Detective, serial killers are back. The fun investigative whodunnit genre has once again made it back into the mainstream. Having a gruesome murderer on the loose and needing two polar opposites to investigate the crime and piece the clues has become once again exhilarating… if done right. Unfortunately, that’s where Damaged doesn’t necessarily measure up, but it is an interesting ride!

Chicago detective Dan Lawson (Samuel L. Jackson) has been chasing a serial killer for years. A bunch of people have been dismembered and rearranged in the form of a cross has the hint of a serial killer, one who may specialize in satanic ritualistic killing. In addition to chasing this killer, Dan’s girlfriend was also a victim, so this is personal for him. Despite not hearing anything in Chicago related to the killer for a while, a body turns up in Scotland, so Chief Inspector Boyd (Gianni Capaldi who also co-wrote Damaged with Koji Steven Sakai and Paul Aniello) and his partner Kessler (Kate Dickie of Game of Thrones fame) enlist Lawson to come over to Scotland to consult on the case due to his familiarity.

Both Lawson and Boyd are dealing with their own personal terrors. Lawson is drinking heavily due to his girlfriend’s murder as well as his inability to find the killer and Boyd is mourning the death of his child, which has strained his relationship with his wife. Despite the two of them having their challenges, they both are on the case and dedicated to investigating and solving the case. Lawson also recruits his former partner Bravo (Vincent Cassel) who has since left police work to become a crime novelist and a security consultant, and they try and work the hell out of the case as dismembered bodies start piling up.

The two first believe one of the earlier victims’ annoying but threatening neighbor (Brian McCardie) may be the culprit, but after that false start, they turn their attention to Gregor (John Hannah), a member of a radical religious group (that the group had to kick out for being too radical) and Gregor is the perfect foil for the two detectives. He’s smart, ice-cold, methodical, and just comes across as downright dangerous. As they play their cat-and-mouse game, the deaths intensify, including someone very close to the case.

However, when the real killer is revealed in Damaged, it’s a messy and lazy way to try and tie everything together. It attempts to explain away the previous hour and a half of the film in a sort of The Usual Suspects type of reveal, but it doesn’t connect the dots effectively. In fact, it leaves even more questions than answers. Was this the killer? Or was it a copycat? Maybe you might have to watch the movie more than once to try and put it all together, but even then it might seem silly.

Now does that mean Damaged is a bad film? Not necessarily. It’s just the twist at the ending is incredibly disappointing. Director Terry McDonough who cut his teeth directing TV shows like Breaking Bad, The Expanse, Criminal Minds, and countless other shows, knows how to shoot a scene. In addition, having Damaged take place in Ireland allows the film to be a great advertisement for Ireland’s Department of Tourism, because the landscape there is breathtakingly beautiful. The makeup and gore effects are also quite effective as the dismembered bodies will make you squeamish, which is always a plus in a serial killer thriller film. Jackson loves hamming it up as well and Capaldi does a great job as a tortured detective who wants to get the killer by any means necessary.

Overall, Damaged is an intriguing film. It almost might work better as a limited series (True Detective-styled) to help flesh out the narrative of the story and allow the twists and turns to breathe a little better. With more development, the ending would have proven to be more effective and more believable. That said, anytime Samuel L. Jackson plays a “damaged” fish out of water is always fun!

Damaged is currently available in theaters and VOD.