Directed by Vaughn Stein (who previous wrote/directed Terminal), with a debut script from Matthew Kennedy, Inheritance is described as a ‘nightmarish dive into the deepest secrets of New York’s elite’ and while it’s true to say there are secrets hidden beneath the character’s lives, the nightmare-element relates more to the uneven muddle that is the film itself, one which feels like they thought of the trailer before an actual intelligent plot.
Inheritance is set around Lily Collins’ Lauren Monroe, an ambitious young lawyer with a daughter (this is important), who’s a hard hitter when it comes to helping those in need and isn’t afraid to fight the big corporations. We’re shown this in a rather gruelling super-cut that opens the film, edited to death to show that Lauren is a successful, busy woman, where everything is going her way. But then, her Father dies, she gets some money (not as much as her popular brother) but also something else, something unusual, she gets directed to a bunker that lies hidden deep in their estate woods…
Once there, she discovers Simon Pegg’s Morgan Warner, a man who’s been chained inside and seemingly left on the bare essentials for the past 30 years and by whom? Lauren’s father. Why? We won’t learn that right now because how else would you let a wider, unravelling story reveal itself? Despite this intriguing opening, bar a few scenes and moments that find their feet, after that it pretty much begins a descent into filler but before we get there, let’s pick out a positive.
Not disregarding a bizarre wig, that can be distracting, I do think Simon Pegg gives a transformative performance with more than a hint of the underlying psychological of the likes of a Hannibal Lecter, it’s certainly lurking there anyway. It’s full of unknown, complete with mysterious stories to share that can suggest something more is going on. As the story slightly develops, he’ll share more and while not that likeable, at least he’s bringing some life to proceedings. While he does his best, he also gets dragged into the bland later on, even when a few things kick off.
Lily Collins is decent enough in the lead but never quite strong enough to reflect the world her character is from. Also, while we’re told she’s super smart, she makes some seriously strange decisions with the bunker and the world around that. Disappointingly, her role becomes just a reactionary partner to Pegg’s Morgan and so underdeveloped that by the end you don’t really care what happens to her. You’ll also forget she even has the aforementioned family and when we’re dealing with throwaway character elements such as this, you actually start to feel sorry for the real-life Collins, dealing with poor scripting that dives deep into cliché.
As a side note, there’s little to no redeeming features for any character either, plus a serious waste of talent for Connie Nielsen, who’s barely given any depth at all. It feels like they wanted Inheritance to be all high-stakes and ‘business empires to lose’ but is this really a film for 2020, especially when the main ‘rich’ characters are so bland? It’s also not helped by Chace Crawford as William Monroe, who knocks further credibility out of the park with a heavy dose of over-acting.
Also, for a film with backing, there’s genuine concerns about the consistency of the editing, with some scenes randomly cut between shots, alongside a general lack of pacing. We’ve also got a classic issue with people who aren’t using sound correctly (see The Invisible Man for how to do it perfectly), with many scenes over-scored, when silence would have created a deeper atmosphere.
While the final run kicks back in with a little more interest, it’s such a task to get there and you wonder what the hell all the middle, or most of it, was about. As a director, Vaughn Stein seems to lack control over any part of the film and Inheritance proves that undeveloped characters alongside a flat script really shouldn’t be getting to this stage. It’s already hard to root for the super-rich and here, it wouldn’t make a difference if they all disappeared at the end and that would be a beneficial legacy for everyone.