‘Don’t Let Go’ Review: Murder Leads to a Time-Bending Trip

You could get whiplash trying to follow the jumping timeline in “Don’t Let Go.” A likable, derivative genre mash-up that mixes a police procedural with a supernatural thriller and a splash of family melodrama, the movie tracks a Los Angeles detective (David Oyelowo) who jumps on the case after receiving a call from his murdered niece. Is she dead or has he slid off the deep end? That’s one question in this tricky mystery, in which the past isn’t past and the present is sometimes a muddle.

At some point you will likely get lost in “Don’t Let Go,” as people say of Venice, with its labyrinthine streets and canals. (The title evokes “Don’t Look Now,” another woo-woo cinematic rebus , one that takes place in — ta-da — Venice.) Knowing this may make it easier to watch “Don’t Let Go,” freeing you from pesky thoughts about time and space, narrative logic and quantum physics. There’s pleasure in solving the mystery, piecing together the jigsaw. But it can be nice just going with the kind of choppy flow that soon envelops Oyelowo’s Jack Radcliff once he begins investigating his own life.

If that also suggests “Memento” it’s because the director, Jacob Estes, has clearly taking some cues from Christopher Nolan’s puzzle film. It does Estes no favors to push the comparison. “Don’t Let Go” is less ambitious and less complex than “Memento,” and you get lost in its thickets because Estes hasn’t wholly figured out how to make toying with time work. But he has a fine cast and a good sense of place, including a feel for the spookiness of emptied-out spaces, and he makes his conspicuously low budget work for the near-claustrophobic intimacy. More important, he has Oyelowo.

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