If you’ve been awaiting the triumphant return of the erotic thriller, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that “Shattered” is very much an erotic thriller, complete with femme fatale and out-of-his-depth protagonist. The bad news is that, despite a game performance from Lilly Krug, the next “Basic Instinct” this is not. Written by David Loughery and directed by Luis Prieto, “Shattered” comes across as an update on the thrillers of yore — just with the wrong elements updated.
That rule about something seeming too good to be true? Let’s just say it applies when you meet a beautiful woman at the grocery store, her Uber cancels on her, and she isn’t in the mood to go home because her troublesome roommate is there. To its benefit, “Shattered” keeps you on your toes from the very first despite this fishy setup, training you to wonder whether there’s more to each strange incident — a habit that would benefit security-obsessed Chris (Cameron Monaghan), a tech millionaire who lets his guard down time and again when it comes to Sky (Krug). That’s understandable given her charm and beauty, but to say that we see where this is headed before he does would be an understatement.
What follows has shades of everything from “Misery” to “Audition,” albeit with little of either film’s bawdy bravura. The film seeks to be pulse-pounding and sophisticated all at once, and is often too restrained for its own good — a fuller commitment to the inherently over-the-top plot would have served the story better. Much of that comes down to Monaghan, whose acting chops can’t overcome how staid and wooden Chris is.
Krug has the meatier role, and also has more fun with it — just because we know there’s more to Sky than she’s letting on doesn’t mean there isn’t some joy to be had in finding out just what that might be, especially with the dialed-up-to-10 energy she displays throughout. Whether intentional or not, you’re almost inclined to root for her when push comes to shove. Chris is so passive and undynamic a protagonist — not to mention foolish in the way he walks right into his own misfortunes — that it’s difficult to muster as much sympathy for his plight as we’re clearly meant to. There’s an us-versus-them dynamic ingrained in the plot, with Chris being blamed for what’s happening to him because he’s so wealthy, so far removed from the struggles of everyday folks. It helps move things along even if it isn’t especially novel.
John Malkovich is there too, living out of the motel he runs and pretty much always looking out his window with suspicion and curiosity. It almost feels like too small a part for him, not that it stops him from stealing most of his scenes — it’s as though he has the most awareness of what kind of movie he’s in and how to balance the need for drama and camp, which makes sense given that he’s the only one old enough to have been working during the genre’s heyday. (Who knew we needed John Malkovich yelling “walk of shame!” from his window in 2022?)
For all that, it’s Klug who keeps you watching. There’s a glee to her antics that’s at once revolting and compelling, a push-pull lacking elsewhere in the film. “Shattered” may not be memorable in and of itself, but it at least provides a memorable showcase for its real star — one who, unlike the character she portrays, deserves to do more good things in the future.