Having your memory temporarily fail on you will cause you to have a testing time. Having it fail and finding out that you need it to help clear your name is going to cause you all kinds of problems. Eric Ashworth (Joseph Morgan) is about to dive deep into a mystery in which his memory is the key to his freedom.
Written and directed by Ross Clarke and based on the novel Dermaphoria by Craig Clevenger, The Chemist is a neo-noiresque mystery based in and around New Orleans with a central character who has acute memory loss.
A self-made explosion at a drug-making shack leaves experimental chemist and disaffected genius Eric without a clue to what he has been doing recently, an interrogation with local police in the shape of officer Anslinger (Ron Perlman) and 3 days of leeway with which to solve his mystery in order to prove his innocence.
Eric’s investigation leads him to piecing together the slightest of clues, talking to the people he is led to and giving the smallest of grasps as to what happened and caused all this. But his memory is still refusing to cooperate, providing moments and snippets of feelings and images. The only thing that he can remember clearly is the name Desiree. With mere glimpses of memories and fleeting moments to assist, the introduction of local bad guy Elia Blanc (Walton Goggins, Tomb Raider, Ant-Man and the Wasp) adds a lot of southern spice as well as another pressure that his head is still refusing to comply with. But the most pressing question in Eric’s head to try to figure out still remains: Who is Desiree?
You play catch-up along with the story, as you are given as little to work with as Eric has. The timeline jumps around quite a bit, showcasing childhood, pre-explosion but mostly moments of Eric and the woman that he remembers more than anything else but doesn’t help him progress his self-investigation. This drift from reality to hazy memory and back again, tied in with different timeframes, makes for a confusing watch, without much payoff.
There is a slow realisation that the drug that Eric has created is slowly destroying him and his relationship; and that deterioration is done well in tandem with the slow dawning of Eric’s memory recovering, but this still ends up feeling a little like a TV movie. Lacking some of the style of something with a bigger budget and with no real feel of urgency surrounding the investigation and solving the mystery leaves it a feeling a bit meandering and directionless. Another key point in this kind of film would be having a real conneection or desire to see Eric fulfilled in his cause but, due to his character traits and his lack of personality, it leaves the audience adrift.
You do get a taste of the southern lifestyle and environment, especially from Walton Goggins and Ron Perlman and some excellent camerawork. But the quality and screen presence of these two actors provides a direct comparison between their excellent work and the, at times, emotionless and disconnected Morgan. There are some obvious comparisons with Angel Heart in the mystery, location and style of The Chemist but it lacks providing the urgency or pressing home the cost of solving the mystery. It ends up a bit muddled and void of the emotion that it was striving for, even if it does have all the ingredients in the right place.
The Chemist is available for Digital Download from 1st October. Check out the trailer below and let us know your thoughts in the comment section.