I have a theory that Samuel L. Jackson directly tells us why he made Damaged right in the middle of the film. His character, Chicago detective Dan Larson, is in Scotland to help track down a serial killer with a modus operandi similar to one who struck the Windy City several years prior. Larson says he likes Scotland but really wants to go to Ireland to play on some of the famed golf courses there. Another character responds that it’s a short trip. Jackson is well-known for being an avid golfer who reportedly has a clause in his contracts stipulating that he can play twice a week. It's quite possible that he signed on for this mystery so he could hop over to those Irish courses. The quality of the material sure doesn’t explain his decision.

The alcoholic Larson arrives in Scotland at the request of Chief Inspector Glen Boyd (Gianni Capaldi). He’s on the hunt for a psycho who steals the torsos of his female victims, then leaves their severed arms and legs in the pattern of a cross. Clues seem to point toward a bloke named McGregor (John Hannah) who was kicked out of a weird religious cult for being too extreme. Larson suggests bringing in backup in the form of his old partner, the improbably named Walker Bravo (Vincent Cassel).

Damaged is more of a trick than an actual story. Forget the fact that the clues don’t make sense. The big sin here is that fooling the audience seems to be the primary motivation. For the most part, the plot follows all the cliches and conventions of low-rent serial killer flicks. If you’ve seen enough of them, you immediately become suspicious of a particular character and, in fact, the film practically flashes neon signs suggesting this person will be revealed as the killer in a twist ending. But even bad movies generally aren’t that stupid, so we know it’s a red herring.

The real ending is about as unsatisfying as you can get. When everything in a movie is literally built around pulling the rug out from under viewers, you end up with a mystery that makes no sense. And boy, does this movie ever make no sense. A long-winded explanation tries to tie up the loose ends. It’s all loose ends, though, so director Terry McDonough ends up tying loose ends to other loose ends, creating a huge mess in the process. When it’s over, you can’t help but ask yourself, “Why did I sit through the whole thing for that?”

Samuel L. Jackson is never not good, and he certainly does what he can to sell the material. Same goes for Capaldi, Hannah, and Cassel. They’re good enough that it makes you wish Damaged was a whole lot better than it is. Incidentally, the title refers to the shared state of the characters. Larson has an alcohol addiction, while the others are all damaged in their own particular ways. In that sense, the entire movie is a metaphor for itself.

out of four

Damaged is rated R for violence, grisly images throughout, language, and brief sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan