In Steven Knight's “Serenity,” Matthew McConaughey plays a fishing-boat captain obsessed with a very large tuna named Justice. (Don’t blame us; we don’t make these movies up.) Rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.

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Movie review

In the muddled would-be noir “Serenity,” Matthew McConaughey plays a fishing-boat captain obsessed with a very large tuna named Justice. (Hey, don’t blame me; I don’t make these movies up.) This is an actual tuna, not a metaphor; other characters refer to “that tuna that’s in your head,” like it’s a reasonable thing to say. So I guess we can thank “Serenity” for providing its very own descriptor: This is a movie that has tuna in its head.

Writer/director Steven Knight made a nice, tight little thriller last time out (the shot-from-the-driver’s-seat drama “Locke,” with Tom Hardy); “Serenity,” dumped into theaters in the dregs of January, is a reminder that even talented filmmakers sometimes get lost in the tuna. In its first hour or so, the movie presents itself as a turgid take on a classic noir plot: Karen (Anne Hathaway), ex-wife of Baker Dill (McConaughey), turns up on the small tropical island where he lives, flinging around her Veronica Lake hair and breathily asking for a favor: Could he pleeeease kill off her nasty new husband (Jason Clarke) for her?

This plays out for a while, with Baker’s first mate (Djimon Hounsou) warning of trouble; his occasional lover (Diane Lane) blathering on about her cat (whose name is, I think, Plot Device); a weird suited dude (Jeremy Strong) running around with a briefcase; a lot of extremely dramatic smoking; and an elaborately framed cameo appearance by McConaughey’s naked behind, which shows up as if to make sure we’re all still paying attention. And then, after a lot of ominous shots of blood in the water and torrential rainstorms (the better to create wet T-shirts) … well, let’s just say that things aren’t always what they seem, and that there is not enough popcorn in the world to make this particular twist go down.

“There’s some weird stuff going on right now,” intones Baker, as the soundtrack pounds itself into a frenzy and the audience, as one, starts muttering “um, what about the tuna?” Indeed, man. Indeed.


★½ “Serenity,” with Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Djimon Hounsou, Diane Lane, Jason Clarke, Jeremy Strong. Written and directed by Steven Knight. 103 minutes. Rated R for language throughout, sexual content and some bloody images. Opens Jan. 25 at multiple theaters.