Christina Hendricks never phones it in—even in this quick cash-grab made to mine the success of Gone Girl. Dark Places, like Gone Girl, is adapted from a Gillian Flynn novel—but unlike Gone Girl, Flynn didn't adapt the script, and David Fincher didn't direct. It was punted over to a moderately unknown writer/director, Gilles Paquet-Brenner (Sarah's Key), and stuffed with an impressive number of my favorite actors.
As established in Max Max: Fury Road, Charlize Theron looks awesome driving around, sunlight glinting off her bone structure. In Dark Places, she plays Libby Day, a tough, shoulder-slouching survivor of a brutal murder that feels tiresomely reflective of roles Theron has played before. Hendricks, meanwhile, is a depressed, angelic mother figure who barely makes ends meet and listens to advice from bad men. Nicholas Hoult is supposed to be playing a nerd, but he's way off, heading right back into his character from Skins. And Corey Stoll, playing a prisoner, is probably straight-up hoping you don't see this film, given that all he does is ladle out exposition from maximum security. These are all good actors, and there are moments in Dark Places when they're able to pull their characters off. That makes everything else even more frustrating.
I'm not saying everything else is all Paquet-Brenner's fault, but continuity, pacing, and making sure a movie makes sense—these things are kind of the director's job, right? Dark Places has all the building blocks of a good feature—and then forces everyone in it to motormouth through heavy-handed dialogue, trying to cram a fairly complex novel into an uninspired two-hour crime drama.