The cold-blooded nature of reptiles has often been associated with heartless cruelty, but in reality, it’s a simple outcome of evolution—an adaptation that helps our scaly counterparts thrive in their environment. In the world of “Reptile,” Detective Tom Nichols, portrayed by Benicio Del Toro, is hot on the trail of a killer who embodies both definitions: a ruthless murderer seeking to shed their identity and disappear. As Nichols delves deeper into the criminal abyss, he unravels a sprawling conspiracy that threatens to engulf everything he holds dear, all while attempting to renovate his kitchen.
As the pursuit of tantalizing clues intensifies, it leads to a climactic showdown that upends Nichols’ life. The case is cracked, and the culprits are apprehended, yet don’t anticipate an abundance of concrete answers.
“Reptile” unravels its mystery, but it doesn’t hand-feed you every intricate detail. Director Grant Singer shares his perspective, stating, “One of the things I appreciate about films is their ability to be enigmatic, leaving viewers with lingering questions. There’s a deliberate choice behind leaving some questions unanswered.”
However, Singer doesn’t leave the audience completely in the dark. Below, he dissects a few critical clues that unlock the film’s conclusion.
“Reptile” is available for streaming on Netflix now.
Who is responsible for Summer’s death?
“Reptile” kicks off with Will Grady (Justin Timberlake) discovering the lifeless body of his girlfriend, Summer (Matilda Lutz), a real estate broker. Detective Nichols and his partner, Cleary (Ato Essandoh), are summoned to the scene to investigate.
Numerous individuals fall under suspicion during their inquiry, including Will himself, the Grady family’s vengeful stalker, Eli (Michael Carmen Pitt), and Summer’s soon-to-be ex-husband, Sam (Karl Glusman). However, as Nichols and his wife, Judy (Alicia Silverstone), soon uncover, the answer to this mystery is far from straightforward.
In the third act, “Reptile” reveals that Summer was murdered to prevent her from cooperating with the FBI regarding a scam that implicates various levels of Nichols’ own police department. Singer explains, “[Nichols] faces a moral dilemma: to do the right thing and sacrifice his stability, livelihood, and career or remain silent.”
He chooses to do the right thing, confiding in the people he trusts, including his wife’s uncle, Robert Allen (Eric Bogosian), and his chief, Marty Graeber (Mike Pniewski). Unfortunately for Nichols, they are both involved in the conspiracy.
The conspirators face a grim fate: Allen is fatally shot by Wally (Domenick Lombardozzi), and Wally and the chief are subsequently shot by Nichols. However, it’s not a tidy resolution.
Why was Summer murdered?
As it turns out, the initial suspect, Will Grady, did play a significant role in the conspiracy that led to his girlfriend Summer’s murder. Although the extent of his involvement in her death remains unclear, both Grady and his mother (Frances Fisher) are revealed to have colluded with corrupt cops.
Exploiting a legal loophole that allows them to seize property that has been raided for drugs, the Gradys profit substantially from the real estate market. Nichols uncovers this scheme when he recognizes a duct-taped brick of heroin seized on Summer’s ex-husband’s property, identical to the one in a separate drug bust.
He deduces that Summer, the Gradys’ broker, attempted to inform the FBI about her boyfriend and his mother without involving the complicit police department. Summer was silenced to preserve the conspiracy, becoming a victim of the very corruption that Nichols has spent his career combating.
In the film’s closing moments, the feds apprehend Grady during his golf game, bringing an end to his involvement.
What’s the significance of the faucet?
Throughout “Reptile,” Detective Nichols repeatedly fixates on an unexpected piece of evidence: a touch-free faucet. He mentions his fondness for his kitchen to his partner while investigating a crime scene. Although seemingly unrelated to the case, this faucet holds significant meaning for Nichols’ character.
Singer explains, “In this genre of crime thrillers, we often see the case through the detective’s eyes, and they are entirely consumed by it. We wanted to show that this detective is invested in the case but also has a three-dimensional life. He’s remodeling his kitchen and enjoys the finer things.”
In essence, the faucet symbolizes another facet of Nichols’ multifaceted personality. Singer adds, “We employ this approach throughout the film, such as when he checks out the truck or the fact that he has a distinct ringtone.”
The goal is to paint a portrait of a character who is richly developed. Ultimately, Nichols gets what he desires: in the film’s concluding shot, he happily turns on the faucet in his fully renovated kitchen.
Why is the movie titled “Reptile”?
“In the movie, characters are initially presented as one thing and later revealed to be something else,” Singer elaborates. “There’s a shedding of skin, which felt like an apt metaphor for the film.
Some of the most unethical characters in the film can appear quite likable at times.” Much like creatures with cold blood, these characters can be unexpectedly warm under specific circumstances.
In a film replete with enigma, even the title itself carries an air of ambiguity. Singer conceived “Reptile” at the inception of the production process, aiming for a one-word title that feels bold and distinct. As Singer aptly puts it, “Titles like Heat and Casino—things that exude boldness. When this title came to mind, it didn’t evoke any other film.” After all, you’re now pondering why it’s called “Reptile,” aren’t you?
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One of my friends once said, I am in love with words and a zoned out poser... well, I will keep it the way it has been said! Besides that you can call me a compulsive poet, wanna-be painter and an amateur photographer