Secrets and lies are the cornerstone of any good thriller and Inheritance has a wealth of them hidden within the stone columns of the Monroe family mansion. Their secrets, are only compounded by the death of patriarch Archer (Patrick Warburton) and the possibility of his secrets spewing out and ruining the reputation of the once great Monroe name. Often compared to Succession or even Parasite, Inheritance has big shoes to fill in terms of stories about privilege and greed. It never really gets to those highs, instead the closest comparison Inheritance achieves is Gossip Girl.
Raised by a family constantly under the spotlight, Lauren (Lily Collins) lives in a world of outlandish expectations. Her father, an influential investment banker’s sudden death unearths the families biggest secret, a bunker on their property hiding away a grey, dishevelled man called Morgan (Simon Pegg), a prisoner of Archer’s for the last 30 years. The responsibility of which has passed down to Lauren, who is stuck with the awful decision of either protecting a family she doesn’t really know or do the right thing, whatever that might be.
Despite a preposterous premise, Inheritance plasters over its far out notions by focusing on Lauren’s growing relationship with Morgan. Despite wanting to be a chastisement of wealth and influence and the power that comes with it, it all seems utterly childish. All secret love childs, offshore accounts and bribery, this family is full of untold gossip and backbiting but it rarely says anything about them or the world they have grown up in. When director Vaughn Stein takes his story underground and ignores the poorly constructed reality above that Inheritance finally finds some traction.
In this dingy cellar Lauren isn’t filling the totally unbelievable role of New York District Attorney, she is just a disappointed and enraged daughter and Collins makes the constant see-saw between morals and family loyalty compelling. However the force here is Pegg who has finally broken free of his nice guy persona with Morgan, a man playing on his new captors sympathies, lobbying his way to possible freedom after years in the dark. His performance is smartly sympathetic but constantly excretes a bad smell, something off but abstract. It’s his best performance to date until the final moments require a tilt into the expected.
The constant push and pull between the two is dynamic and speeds up a tale with little narrative drive. When Lauren walks out of her newly inherited dungeon, we are reminded of a family that feels more like a stone, weighing the story down instead of representing the life Lauren wants to keep safe. Her brother William (Chace Crawford), a US senator feels like a more jaded version of Crawford’s Gossip Girl character, the painfully rich sounding Nate Archibald. Not only does he seem too young for the role, something Collins struggles with as well but writer Matthew Kennedy never makes him anything more than an entitled fool, a pompous fool in Armani suits.
While these detours prove necessary in establishing Morgan’s story and Lauren’s conflict they feel like trips to Oz, a fantastical unrealistic world above when we would much rather be back in Kansas. It all sets up a finale that for all its thrills rushes through exposition instead of giving it the time to flow out naturally, stripping the two remaining interesting characters to plot devices. Its the kind of ending that has you enraged but never for the right reasons, instead it is the kind that collapses under the weight of unintelligent plot twists given little to no thought. While I would be happy to see these characters actually indulge in a real chess match, instead of the one constantly implied, when it really comes down to it, neither of them is smart enough to pull it off.
That isn’t to say that Inheritance is a waste of time, it houses two great leads and some impressive buildup but if it all leads to an ending that slides into the forgettable, it sullies the oftentimes impressively simple discussions that lead to that point. It makes you wish that these family secrets had stayed buried.