I enjoyed doing an on-stage interview with Simon Pegg before a preview screening of Shaun of the Dead; with plenty of laughs in the film, it surprised me that he wanted to sneak back into the theatre to see how the audience reacted to a dramatic rather than a comic moment. Pegg’s stock in comedy was never higher, via much-loved shows like Big Train and Spaced, but he clearly had aspirations beyond the fine art of creating laughter. This 2020 thriller Inheritance, directed by Vaughn Stein and written by Matthew Kennedy, sees Pegg take a serious role in a twisty-turny political thriller, cooking up some familiar genre elements in a fresh way.
Lily Collins plays Lauren Monroe, the innocent daughter of a shady dynasty that centres on her father Archer (Patrick Warburton), mother Catherine (Connie Neilsen) and politician brother William (Chase Crawford), the latter in a key stage of a re-election campaign when his father dies of a heart attack. Lauren faces something of a slap in the face when her father’s will is read; she gets a million, her brother gets twenty-times more, and the police and fire departments get the lion’s share. But Lauren’s dad has something else in store for her, an inheritance with no monetary value, but taking the form of Morgan Warner (Simon Pegg), a forgotten man who has been kept an unwilling prisoner in a bunker under their house. Warner offers Lauren information that suggests her family has a criminal past, but Lauren wants proof, so Warner sends her on a series of missions to establish whether he’s the real deal or just fake news.
‘You’re THE monster! You just live in a bigger house…’ is a key-line here; Lauren’s work as a lawyer doesn’t prepare herself for the way in which her wealthy, powerful family are brought down to earth by bad decisions in the past and how these decisions might come back to compromise them. The sins of the father won’t lie dormant, and there’s plenty of entertainment working out exactly how Lauren’s comfortable existence will get blown apart by Warner’s words. Pegg undergoes something of a transformation here, initially an emaciated, bedraggled figure, he gains in gravity as his character gets re-introduced to the outside world. Of course, like Lauren, we’re never quite sure if Warner is lying or not; either way, Inheritance is probably Pegg’s best performance as a dramatic actor to date.
But Pegg’s only one element in a classy ensemble; Collins also delivers an above-average performance as a strong female lead, and Warburton and Nielsen both register in support. For director Vaughn Stein, it’s a massive jump forward from 2018’s Terminal, a far more controlled and less self-conscious thriller which artfully uses Warner’s theatrical appearance to keep expectations about his truthfulness on-edge. Political skeletons are a hot topic in an election year; Inheritance takes a darkly entertaining look at how a powerful political dynasty might turn out to be built on shakiest of foundations.
In the UK, Signature Entertainment presents Inheritance on DVD & Digital HD from July 6th .
US link below.