This depressingly uninventive, and pathologically televisual, non-mysterious mystery tale follows good white heterosexual cop Noah (Nick Stahl) and his good white heterosexual sidekick, Leslie (Rachel Nichols), as they try to find the bad white heterosexual guys involved in the murder of a good white heterosexual child in an affluent small town.
An exercise in genre mimicry so flawless you could watch the Swahili-dubbed version and you’d still know exactly what the characters are saying, Meskada lays out all of the clichés, formal and conceptual, of the murder-mystery television plot and executes them with the kind of generic hand that makes McG’s oeuvre seem avant-garde.
Director Josh Sternfeld, or Meskada’s source code, couples the overt familiarity of the iconography (pool tables, beer bottles, baseball bats, guns, and women who either weep or serve) with stomach-turning visual redundancy. For example, the extreme close-up of the bag Noah uses to collect evidence (clearly labeled “EVIDENCE”) and the long take that tracks the length of the Crime-Scene-Do-Not-Cross yellow barrier tape in its entirety.
The film also has a completely gratuitous, and insipid, sex scene (man on top) featuring bad white heterosexual Eddie (Kellan Lutz, stiff as Pinocchio) that includes a cutaway shot of a burning white candle, and a cringe-inducing existential question post-coitus (“Do you ever think about what’s after…life?”). The sterility of this scene is emblematic of how a lifeless formula can metastasize all of its subsequent contents. In an authenticity-killing mise-en-abîme structure that echoes the mechanics of reproduction of both the work of art a la Walter Benjamin and heterosexual patriarchy’s, Meskada represents the copy of the copy of the copy of the copy. This is the kind of cinematic mirror-image of Hallmark saccharine: the insentient picture, in which the function of the characters and dialogue is so atrociously obvious we might as well be watching lead parts go through a conveyor belt.