Back in June, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig turned heads with their appearance in Lifetime’s A Deadly Adoption— two A-list stars “lowering” themselves (with a wink and a nod) to take part in a supremely schlocky movie. It’s safe to say Oscar winners Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts and Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ojiafor didn’t have the same thought in mind when they signed up for Secret in Their Eyes, but, alas, that’s where they ended up.
A remake of the 2009 Argentinian film, Secret in Their Eyes does its very best to waste the talents of everyone involved on its way to becoming a melodramatic bit of silliness, anchored by what may be the worst performances of each actor’s career (and, yes, that includes Kidman’s disastrous Trespass).
Ojiafor is Ray Kasten, a member of the FBI’s counterterrorism task force. In 2002 the daughter of his colleague Jess Cobb (Roberts) is found murdered in a dumpster, and when a suspect is apprehended and then released, Ray spends the next thirteen years obsessed with tracking him down again. And just in case the soap opera-ness of that plot isn’t enough, there’s a whole subplot of Ray having an unrequited crush on Claire Sloan (Kidman) in the DA’s office.
Adapted and directed by Billy Ray (Shattered Glass), Secret in Their Eyes plods along with all the immediacy and tension of a walk in the park on a sunny day. Most surprising though, are the bland performances by every member of the cast. Roberts manages to rise above the dreck the most (which isn’t saying much) in what amounts to little more than a supporting role. Kidman, however, has zero to work with, and Ojiafor’s expression never budges from pained anguish.
By the time the climax (and requisite twist) rolls around, there’s been so little reason to stay invested in the story that it’s met with a collective yawn, and the movie winds up being a secret I imagine everyone involved would’ve liked to have just kept to themselves. Oh well.