Review: 'Wetlands' Is Much Dryer Than Its Name Suggests

Wetlands tells the story of Babel ‘Babs’ Johnson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a Philadelphia detective who comes back to the area outside of Atlantic City that the film is named after, the wetlands, after a mysterious incident in Philly. The wetlands are miles of swamp land that has a small town feel to it where everyone knows everyone. Babs is hoping to have a new start in Atlantic City, one that includes his ex-wife Savannah (Heather Graham) and his daughter Amy (Celeste O’Connor). Savannah has moved on and is now dating a surfer girl (Reyna De Courcy) who has gotten mixed up selling dope, and of course keeping a little bit on the side for herself. Babs is worried that the dangerous people that Savannah and her new girlfriend are mixed up with will put Amy in danger.

Toss in a few other characters – Paddy Sheehan (Christopher McDonald), Bab’s wacky detective partner, Sheehan’s wife Katherine Buchanan (Jennifer Ehle), who seems to harbor some romantic feelings towards Babs - and then include a natural disaster in Hurricane Suzy who is heading straight for the Wetlands. Put it all together, stir, and you have the jumbled mess that is Wetlands. There are numerous players the film features with very little to no character development and this leaves the audience not caring about any of them. It seems like most of them have their own demons and are falling apart like the city that surrounds them. Babs is guilty of this and often acts erratically, seemingly without any contemplation of consequences that may arise from his actions.

Atlantic City, which was once a thriving city filled with huge hotels and casinos, restaurants, and clubs is now a shell of itself. First time director Emanuele Della Valle does an admiral job of showing the desolation of Atlantic City in Wetlands while incorporating the look and feel of some classic films. This is especially portrayed by the seemingly muted colors throughout. The use of a narrator that chimes in at various points in the movie was a decent touch, but it was too little too late… a subpar movie with certain stylistic elements mixed in is still subpar. Wetlands never truly establishes what it is and what it wants to be. Eventually a murder occurs and aspects of a detective film come forth, with Babs trying to track down the killer, but at that point the movie is closer to the closing credits than the opening ones. There was a chance, and some elements in Wetlands that could have made it a success – unfortunately it falls short.

Rating: 2 out of 5