Mindcage Review

PLOT: When a copycat strikes, two detectives ask a top serial killer for help.

REVIEW: In the world of detective dramas, Mindcage follows many tropes you’d expect it to follow. A hardened detective (Martin Lawrence) haunted by a case he solved many years ago. A hotshot newbie who’s looking to prove herself. And the serial killer (John Malkovich) at the center of it all, lending his expert advice to the two detectives. It’s almost like the film was assembled Mad Libs style. And the result is pretty much what you’d expect.

Detective Mary Kelly, played by Melissa Roxburgh, is at the center of our story, and it’s easy to see the Clarice Starling comparisons. But where Starling was shown to be competent and breaking the case in front of our eyes, Kelly just has clues fall into her lap. There’s not much investigation and, if anything, the audience ends up well ahead of the character, which is never good for a mystery. We don’t even get to see a proper build-up to one of these murders, instead just seeing the aftermath. This takes any and all tension out of the film, as we don’t care about a single murder that takes place here.

None of the deaths in Mindcage really matter and are just fodder for story progression. There’s no moment to even attempt to care about them, or their plight. It feels like the filmmakers are trying to replicate True Detective or even Silence of the Lambs. Unfortunately, it lacks any of the tact of those films. I will give credit to director Mauro Borrelli for providing a moody look that makes the budget look higher than it is.

In some ways, this almost feels like Martin Lawrence’s answer to Chris Rock’s turn in Spiral: From the Book of Saw. At least, that’s the only explanation I can muster for why he took on this role. Because he mostly just meanders his way through it. By the end, he has a little more to do, but he mostly acts annoyed at the case he’s working on. He showed a lot more energy as a cop in the more comedic Bad Boys than his considerably more serious role here. I had really been looking forward to see what Lawrence brought to the table, but sadly he skipped this occasion entirely. At least we have Malkovich, who is having a blast every time he’s on screen.

John Malkovich in Mindcage (2022).

While I obviously won’t get into the details of it, the third-act twist is one of the most ludicrous things I’ve ever seen. It’s both unbelievable and hilarious and left me wondering who thought it was a good idea. It also makes me wonder if the twist was always there in all iterations or if they tacked it on to try and give a big shock to the audience. Either way, it doesn’t work and takes this film from average to plain old bad. But it’s the kind of bad that you can definitely get some enjoyment out of with a few buddies and a few brewskis.

There’s some enjoyment to be had from Mindcage, but I don’t think it’s exactly in the way the filmmakers intended. Malkovich is eating up every last bit of scenery and is clearly having a great time. But there’s not much fun outside of his performance, as everything else is very dry. The final act has plenty of absurd moments but it results in more eye rolls than mouths agape. Martin Lawrence doesn’t look like he wants to be there half the time, so I can’t imagine the audience will want to be either.

Mindcage is in Theaters and Streaming on December 16th, 2022.

Martin Lawrence



About the Author

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Tyler Nichols is a horror fanatic who resides in Michigan and is always on the hunt for the next great film. When not scouring the internet for movie news, he is usually off watching something dark, writing nonsensical musings, or playing in some fantastical video game world. While horror takes up most of his time, he still makes time for films of all types, with a certain affinity for the strange and unusual. He’s also an expert on all things Comic Book Cinema. In addition to reviews and interviews here on JoBlo.com, Tyler also helps with JoBlo Horror Originals where he’s constantly trying to convince viewers to give lesser-known horror films a chance.