Inheritance is an uneven thriller with intense drama, mystery, and arresting visuals, though it struggles with certain payoffs.
I had heard of neither Interitance’s director nor its screenwriter prior to viewing the film, so I decided to do a little research on them prior to my viewing. I quickly discovered that I was dealing with extremely new talent: While director Vaughn Stein has served as an assistant director on multiple big-name projects (such as World War Z, Harry Potter, and Pirates of the Caribbean), this is only his second feature-length as the director. As for screenwriter Matthew Kennedy, this is the only writing credit on his IMDB page. So, it seems we have a fairly new creative team who, while experienced, have a lot to prove. With that in mind, how did Inheritance turn out?
Inheritance follows Lauren (Lily Collins), the daughter of a powerful banker and New York City’s District Attorney. After her father (Patrick Warburton) dies under suspicious circumstances, Lauren receives an inheritance from her late father. This inheritance, however, quickly becomes more than she bargained for, and leads her to investigate mysteries surrounding a secret buried under her parents’ house.
It’s a familiar plot, so immediately the burden is on Inheritance to do something new with the premise. Immediately, within the first act, there’s a twist that sets up the rest of the story. A twist which, for some, may seem a little implausible. I’m trying not to give away too much, but your enjoyment of the film will definitely rely on your ability to suspend your disbelief. Inheritance does a good job of following the parameters of the world it has created, so you don’t need to worry about it jumping the shark at any point. But if you’re not on board with what’s happening from the beginning, this might be a tough slog to get through.
The best thing about Inheritance is probably its visuals: the cinematography does an excellent job of creating striking tableaus with well composed shots. The color pallet contributes to the visuals, as dark clothing will counter white backgrounds to signify opulence, and this will be contrasted by shades of red contrasting darkness. It’s a simple color theory, but it’s implemented effectively and adds to the well-constructed visual component. It’s also really refreshing to finally see a movie that makes heavy use of darkness and is also lit adequately.
On the other end, however, where Inheritance struggles is its script. While not terrible, it’s certainly uneven. First the dialogue is… ok. It’s not cringe-inducing by any stretch, but it’s a far cry from the Cohen Brothers: how many times have you seen someone dramatically arrive late to a courtroom scene and have the judge say “nice of you to join us”?
Then there’s the matter of the plot itself. On one hand, it is paced very well. It opens with a montage of quick shots cutting between Lauren’s hectic life interspersed with her father’s final moments, building tension and anxiety and setting the tone for the film. This is balanced by the calm of the funeral scene which immediately follows. Inheritance moves fast enough with enough style to keep your attention, while slowing down often enough to keep you invested.
The biggest issue with the plot, however, is its lack of follow-through. In any thriller, there is an expectation that there will be plot twists and red herrings, and Inheritance has both. The plot twists don’t necessarily subvert genre tropes in any considerable sense, but they’re executed well and make sense within the narrative. But there are other plot threads that get introduced and then dropped very quickly. If a writer is going to add a twist or another layer to a mystery, my hope is that they will flesh it out and follow through. There are still questions that need to be answered after watching Inheritance, but not in a good way.
There’s also a bit of an elephant in the room. This paragraph is going to have a spoiler (though it’s nothing you wouldn’t find out in the half hour), so if that bothers you go ahead and skip down to the conclusion. Now, for those of you who stayed: Inheritance borrows a lot from Parasite. Like, a lot from Parasite: Lauren finds a guy (Simon Pegg) living in a bunker underneath her family’s property. Inheritance also addresses similar themes as Parasite, such as how obscene wealth and power corrupt and leave people dangerously blind to their own privilege, and the lengths someone would go to protect their family. And while Inheritance is a competent film, due to its striking similarities, it has to stand in the shadow of a modern masterpiece.
Does Inheritance reinvent the wheel? No. If you’re not a fan of thrillers, this probably won’t do much to convert you. If you like thrillers, however, it’s worth checking out. Inheritance has its problems, but it does enough things well to keep you invested, and leave you satisfied by the time the credits roll.
Signature Entertainment presents Inheritance on Digital HD July 6th & DVD 13th July.