‘Inheritance,’ ‘Lovebirds,’ ‘Painter’ share crime scenes

Secrets, romance, murder, art and theft in new digital releases

Lily Collins is good in the ultimately disappointing thriller “Inheritance.” (Courtesy Vertical Entertainment)

Our hair is perhaps a bit longer and clothes may be a bit tighter, but folks still need ways to pass the time during quarantine, so here are three new movies available at home to consider. All three deal, in some way, with criminal activities.

Available for digital rental on Friday, Vaughn Stein’s “Inheritance” attempts to say a thing or two about privilege in the United States, certainly a timely topic.

It recalls, but can’t come close to, Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite.” At best it finishes as a “turn-your-brain-off” kind of thriller, a better distraction than a provocation.

Stein’s previous feature, “Terminal,” was a great-looking but muddled attempt at a film noir, and “Inheritance” follows in those footsteps.

The movie requires several large doses of suspension-of-disbelief, starting with the notion that Lauren Monroe (Lily Collins) is a big city district attorney. In real life, Collins is 31, but in the movie she looks more like a 22 year-old with lots of makeup on.

Her younger brother William (Chace Crawford) is, even more improbably, a congressman, and running for re-election. Their father (Patrick Warburton) mysteriously dies, and his will is read. William receives $20 million, while Lauren gets a paltry $1 million, plus the key to a family secret.

In a video, her father tells her where to look, and, in the woods, near her own childhood fort, she finds an underground bunker. Inside the bunker is a creepy man (Simon Pegg), apparently locked up and kept prisoner there for years by Lauren’s father.

From there, “Inheritance” becomes a cat-and-mouse game as Lauren tries to figure out what to do and who to trust. (Too band she hadn’t seen a few movies.)

Collins and Pegg give interesting performances — Pegg gets a few delicious scenes in which, for the first time in years, he smells the night air and eats his first steak — but the story fails to coalesce around their characters.

The mystery could have been tighter, or slipperier, but instead it’s slow and chunky, giving us too much time to ask questions and discover holes. In truth, this “Inheritance” isn’t worth much.

REVIEW

Inheritance

★★½

Starring: Lily Collins, Simon Pegg, Connie Nielsen, Chace Crawford, Patrick Warburton

Written by: Matthew Kennedy

Directed by: Vaughn Stein

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes

* * *

Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani have great chemistry in “The Lovebirds.” (Courtesy Netflix)

Debuting Friday on Netflix, “The Lovebirds” is an attempt to combine a romantic comedy with a chase-type thriller — like “Date Night” or “Game Night” — but it actually works, not only because the stars have fresh chemistry, but because the entire package is brisk and taut.

As it begins, Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae, from “The Hate U Give” and TV’s “Insecure”) have a spectacular first date together, and it looks like true love. Four years later, they live together and argue regularly.

On their way to a dinner party, they accidentally hit a bicyclist with their car. They get out and check on him; he’s bleeding, but seems terrified. He jumps on his bike and rides away. A creepy man claiming to be a cop (Paul Sparks) commandeers the car and gives chase.

They catch him, and the man runs over the bicyclist… several times. He flees, and Jibran and Leilani are left looking like murderers. In a dark twist, they know they can’t go to the police because of their skin color.

But they have the bicyclist’s phone, so they head off into the night to try to solve the mystery themselves, and perhaps save their damaged relationship as well.

“The Lovebirds” walks a fine line between two other Nanjiani movies: the high quality of the Oscar-nominated “The Big Sick” and last year’s action-comedy dud “Stuber.”

Directed by Michael Showalter, who also helmed “The Big Sick” (available on Amazon Prime), “The Lovebirds” effectively balances lovable, bickering characters and a ridiculous crime story without wearing out its welcome.

It clocks in at a compact 86 minutes, and it’s hilarious all the way through the third act.

The real draw, of course, is Nanjiani and Rae, who feel just right together, and who hit the same pitch throughout without ever outdoing each other.

They find a nice combination of relatable emotions and broad comedy, and even the most worn-out of gags, such as repeated one involving “on the count of three,” feel playfully silly.

“The Lovebirds” is a perfect stay-at-home movie; couples that can’t have a date night out will be singing its praises.

REVIEW

The Lovebirds

★★★

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Issa Rae, Paul Sparks, Anna Camp

Written by: Aaron Abrams, Brendan Gall, Martin Gero

Directed by: Michael Showalter

Rated: R

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

* * *

In “The Painter and the Thief,”Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova paints a portrait of Karl-Bertil Nordland, a man who broke into a gallery and stole her art work. (Courtesy Neon)

“The Painter and the Thief” is one of those documentaries that makes a viewer ask, “How could they possibly get that shot?” and “How did they even know to get that shot?”

It’s such a surprising story, so meticulously laid out, that it could inspire accusations of trickery, but if such things don’t bother you, and a great story, brilliantly told, is enough, then seek this one out.

It tells of Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova, who escaped an abusive relationship and moved to Oslo to be with her new boyfriend.

While exhibiting her large-scale oil-based paintings in 2015, two of her canvases were stolen. The thieves, caught on camera, were quickly apprehended, but the paintings were gone.

Barbora decides to speak to one of the thieves, tattooed Karl-Bertil Nordland, and asks to paint his portrait. He agrees. He claims that he was so high during the robbery that he remembers nothing, and cannot help her pinpoint where her paintings might have gone.

Astonishingly, the two become fast friends anyway.

Later, when Karl-Bertil crashes a car, Barbora is the first one at the hospital. She even buys him food when she can’t even afford her rent.

Director Benjamin Ree cleverly tells this story out of order, frequently switching back and forth in time, in an attempt to capture both points of view. In private, Karl-Bertil has a hard time trusting anyone, while Barbora begins to have relationship troubles.

Ree then finds an incredible way to end his story with an unexpected wallop.

Produced by Oscar-winner Morgan Neville (“20 Feet from Stardom,” “Best of Enemies” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”), “The Painter and the Thief” gets very close to the fly-on-the-wall territory of that master Frederick Wiseman, with the camera seeming to be in the most private of spaces at the most intimate of times.

A scene in which Karl-Bertil views a portrait of himself for the first time, and breaks down in wails and sobs, is unbelievably powerful.

Ree’s use of music and editing is likewise expertly nuanced. And any documentary that foregoes talking heads and graphics and gets closer to the hearts of its subjects is certainly worthwhile.

Regardless of whether backtracking or cheating happened during the making of “The Painter and the Thief,” the story that is told is a thoughtful one about the slippery nature of ownership, as well as friendship.

REVIEW

The Painter and the Thief

★★★½

Starring: Barbora Kysilkova, Karl-Bertil Nordland

Directed by: Benjamin Ree

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

Movies and TV

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