Reviews | Written by Spleeny Dotson 11/11/2019

SYNCHRONIC [Celluloid Screams 2019]

DIRECTOR: JUSTIN BENSON, AARON MOORHEAD | SCREENPLAY: JUSTIN BENSON | STARRING: JAMIE DORNAN, ANTHONY MACKIE, ALLY IOANNIDES

In New Orleans something strange is happening… Drug users are being found dead from inexplicable causes, from sword wounds to horrifying burns to impossible falls. What could be behind it? Only two curious paramedics may have the answer.

Dennis (Dornan) is a family man with a nearly adult daughter and brand new baby tying him down, while Steve (Mackie - you know, Falcon out of the MCU) is a freewheeling independent hedonist suddenly forced to reconsider life by an unexpected medical diagnosis. While navigating their own complicated lives, the paramedics are presented with the mystery of synchronic, a synthetic drug that seems to have time bending (and fatal) effects on those who use it.

Synchronic is an odd animal. It’s easiest described as a buddy cop time travel movie (except replace ‘cop’ with ‘paramedic’) and, as such, lives and dies, not on the sci-fi concepts at the heart of it (which are very silly) but on the charisma and chemistry of its buddy leads. Thankfully it has Anthony Mackie who, pretty much on the merits of his charisma alone, carries the entire film, straddling comedy (as he begins to experiment with the effects of Synchronic) and a very believable world weariness and sense of grief as he goes through diagnosis and treatment for a terrifying condition. As mentioned, the reasons for the time travel in Synchronic are genuinely laughable (a scientist turns up at one point to make a metaphor using some vinyl before quickly and permanently disappearing, adding nothing to the believability of the plot) but it does its best to handle the implications with a straight face, particularly the implications of a black man travelling back to periods in US history where being black would be enough to endanger and render a time traveller powerless on its own. However, the whole time travel bit comes late enough in the film that it has little time to breathe before resolution, which is a shame as Anthony Mackie’s adventures through American history is a film series this writer would sign up for watching in a heartbeat.

The chemistry between Dornan and Mackie is certainly good enough to sustain the buddy element of the film, although Dornan’s character rapidly begins to feel somewhat superfluous to the plot as events go on, and there is clearly more love between the two of them than any of the female characters they interact with, but it is a film that is suddenly over before it’s begun, possibly due to juggling too many plot elements, and, although nicely shot and fairly entertaining it would be very empty fare with Anthony Mackie centring it all.

Roll on ‘Anthony Mackie’s adventures through American history’. Two season tickets please.

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