Combustible Celluloid Review - Nefarious (2023), Cary Solomon, Chuck Konzelman, Cary Solomon, Chuck Konzelman, Sean Patrick Flanery, Jordan Belfi, Tom Ohmer, Daniel Martin Berkey
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With: Sean Patrick Flanery, Jordan Belfi, Tom Ohmer, Daniel Martin Berkey
Written by: Cary Solomon, Chuck Konzelman
Directed by: Cary Solomon, Chuck Konzelman
MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing violent content
Running Time: 98
Date: 04/14/2023

Nefarious (2023)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Schemin' Demon

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Well-acted and with decent production value, this faith-based thriller unfortunately becomes stuck in its two-person back-and-forth sermoning, making it all too obvious what the outcome will be.

Following the death by suicide of Dr. Fischer, psychiatrist Dr. James Martin (Jordan Belfi) is called on to perform a grim task. He is to evaluate incarcerated killer Edward Wayne Brady (Sean Patrick Flanery) and determine whether he is mentally fit, and able to go through with tonight's planned execution. The warden (Tom Ohmer) warns James that the killer is extremely clever and highly manipulative.

And, indeed, it's not long before the accused reveals that he is actually a demon, called "Nefarious." He tells James that, before the day is up, he will commit three murders, and, additionally, he will publish a book that will change the world. Is Brady exhibiting signs of schizophrenia, or is he telling the truth?

At first, Nefarious looks like it will be heading into a tense tĂȘte-a-tĂȘte, but before long it becomes clear that there's an agenda in place. James, an atheist, soon becomes powerless against the all-knowing demon, and every single thing he says is challenged and shot down, with no possible retort available. Then the inevitable happens, with no suspense.

But what's confusing is that, if the movie is siding with the monster (as it does, all the way up to the cop-out coda), what is it really about? Even the fact-based stuff, like the process of an execution, or the protocols of psychiatry, seem to have been short-changed.

Eventually, there's little to do but focus on the movie's little foibles, like Flanery's scenery chewing performance (he rapidly flicks his eyes and looks like he's trying to pick something out of his teeth with his tongue), or the baffling number of times he says "James" or "Jimmy," even though it's only the two of them in the room.

In the end, Nefarious is a great title wasted on a letdown of a movie.

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