Detective Dan Lawson (Samuel L. Jackson) in the forest in the movie Damaged I Agents of Fandom

Samuel L. Jackson Crime Thriller ‘Damaged’ Fails To Be Thrilling or Even Good

Samuel L. Jackson isn’t enough to help the new crime thriller ‘Damaged’ be anything other than disappointing.

Crime thrillers are a sturdy genre — one that you can generally count on for some good action sequences, maybe a few twists, and an entertaining time at the movies at the very least. Yet, even the most durable of genres are susceptible to weak links. Damaged, the newest crime thriller starring Samuel L. Jackson, is unfortunately one of those weak links, providing a subpar movie that doesn’t deliver on nearly any front.

The Premise of ‘Damaged’ Offers Up Potential

Scottish Detective Glen Boyd investigates a grizzly neighborhood murder by knocking door to door and interviewing people in Damaged. I Agents of Fandom
Scottish Detective Glen Boyd investigates a grizzly neighborhood murder while going through his own personal troubles in Damaged. Image Credit: Lionsgate.

The film follows detective Dan Lawson (Jackson) as he travels to Scotland to investigate a case that contains murders eerily resembling those of an unsolved case he worked on six years prior in Chicago. Scottish detective Glen Boyd (Gianni Capaldi), who is dealing with his own marital problems at home, acts as his guide, introducing him to what’s taken place and eventually becoming his true partner in the exploration of the bloodshed. As Lawson begins to inspect the atrocities that continue to take place, he links up with his old detective partner from his time in Chicago, Walker Bravo (Vincent Cassel), in hopes of some insight into how to catch the killer.

Not too long after Lawson arrives on the scene, a suspected killer named McGregor (John Hannah) is interrogated. An active hunter and an ex-boyfriend of one of the victims, McGregor seems to be a perfect potential culprit — until his alibi checks out, leaving Lawson, Boyd, and Bravo at a dead end. The case seems closed until another victim turns up and reveals a key clue, reigniting their chase for the criminal.

‘Damaged’ Review: A Supbar Copycat Crime Thriller

With someone like Samuel L. Jackson at the helm of a crime thriller, you’d think you’d be in safe hands. And you aren’t wrong — for the most part. His work playing a drunk, slightly aged-out detective is serviceable, but he isn’t given enough to do with the script that allows him to really exert his iconic energy onto the very contained crime thriller narrative.

Capaldi and Cassel both turn in stiff performances, continually deflating any tension that the investigation is trying to instigate. The murder mystery aspect of the movie is intriguing and even deploys some themes filled with great potential — the killer mutilates the bodies and reforms them into cross shapes, leaving behind his disdain for religion at every crime scene.

Even though that premise, similar in vein to something like the legendary Se7en and overplayed as it now is, is enough to carry forth the crime aspect of the film, the script doubles down on overwrought thematic elements, continually harkening back to the formative idea of grief. Yet, the movie spends essentially zero time investigating grief and its impact on the characters, nor that of the dark possibilities that religion can play into such dark crimes.

At moments, Damaged gave off big Saw energy — a film franchise that I am a dear and deadly fan of — only to once again tuck coyly behind its wobbly dialogue and exceptionally average, even disappointing, narrative progression, leaving the gruesome and intriguing moments of the movie rotting on the floor. With one too many twists thrown in the bunch, the movie, at a swift 92 minutes, felt like an unsatisfying and wandering 2-hour expedition through the repetitive streets of Scotland.

The film’s ultimate weakness lies in its obsession with trying to throw many iconic crime thriller ideas and vibes — Se7en and Saw, like I already mentioned, along with Heat, Insomnia, and The Game — into the pot to mix around. It results in a convoluted case of mistaken identity, creating a final product that neither commits to the emotional tethers it tries to drum up nor the morbid and shocking crime visuals it offers.

Damaged, while it is a crime thriller that provides twists, turns, and action, is more an unfortunate and unsatisfactory entry into the genre, delivering nothing more than a copycat crime flick. Damaged releases in theaters nationwide and on VOD on April 12, 2024.

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'Damaged' Review

'Damaged' Review
1.5 5 0 1
1.5 rating
Total Score

The Good

  • Samuel L. Jackson gets to pretend he is drunk and delivers a funny few minutes.

The Bad

  • The narrative is spread across too many themes, shooting itself in the foot in its ability to pack a punch.
  • Stiff performances and dialogue leave the entire film feeling hazy and lazy.
  • The second act strings of dialogue hinder the thriller pace of the movie.
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