Comedy legend Martin Lawerence steps outside his comfort zone to topline the thriller Mindcage from Lionsgate. As a copycat killer strikes, Jake Doyle (Martin Lawrence) and Mary Kelly (Melissa Roxburgh) seek the help of an incarcerated serial killer named The Artist (John Malkovich) to help catch the person responsible for the crime. Mauro Borrelli directs the film while Reggie Keyohara III pens the screenplay.
A diabolical game of cat and mouse begins as Mary and Jake find themselves pushed to the limit as they search for clues in The Artist's brilliant but twisted psyche. The duo will have to utilize all of their skills and stay one step ahead of The Artist and his copycat.
There has always been an audience for mystery-thriller movies featuring clever serial killers and a dedicated team of detectives who spend days and nights searching for clues and using every improbable strategy to end the murderer. So in that regard, I understand Lawerence's motivation for this role.
Lawerence's first attempt at drama was supposed to happen two decades ago when he was in talks to star in a biopic on radio legend Petey Greene titled Petey Greene's Washington. A script was to be written by Greene's biographer Lurma Rackley, but negotiations failed.
I've always held the mindset that comedians can easily transition to dramatic work since they possess a third eye. Two prime examples are Richard Pryor's work in Blue Collar and Robin Williams's work in One Hour Photo and Insomnia. So naturally, when I saw the trailer for Mindcage with Martin Lawerence's attempt at something different, the film piqued my interest.
Mindcage follows the standard template of most thrillers setting up the crime scene and bringing in the good guys. Unfortunately, Reggie Keyohara III's script is overly pedestrian and falls into cliches over its run time. Lawerence is featured heavily in the promos, but from an argumentative standpoint due to the plot structure, Melissa Roxburgh is our protagonist. Roxburgh is no stranger to genre pics, so she naturally falls into the tropes the film calls for.
As for Lawerence, if you're hoping to see the actor engage in some fisticuffs or have alpha male bravado, prepare for an upset. The script portrays Lawerence's character as a veteran cop with borderline PTSD. Sans a few moments, we only get a little of his character's backstory. It's a shame because Lawerence seems committed to the material. This film is the first I've seen Lawerence on the screen where he doesn't even crack a smile.
Nevertheless, the scenes where Lawerence goes head to head with John Malkovich are some of the better ones in the film and show that Lawerence has a range when given dramatic material. On the other hand, Malkovich is here to collect a check, and nothing he does in the film isn't something you haven't seen him do before.
Worst of all is the film's ending when the copycat is finally revealed. Initially, it made sense, but the extra layers added after the reveal are laughable. In hindsight, my grade for the film may have been higher if Lawerence and Malkovich had swapped roles. Martin Lawerence cemented his legacy as a comedy icon early in his career. Regretfully, Mindcage fails to create a new image for Lawerence due to a weak script.
Final Grade: C-
MINDCAGE will release in Theaters and on VOD on December 16th, 2022.