Poolman (2024) Movie Review – Chris Pine’s directorial debut sinks faster than a lead weight

Chris Pine’s directorial debut sinks faster than a lead weight

If you’re somebody who likes films that make little-to-no narrative sense then you’re going to love Poolman, the directorial debut of Chris Pine who has created a film that lends no credence to plot logic or coherent storytelling. It’s a mess, which will delight you if you’re a bad movie lover. But if you don’t fall into that category, then this is one film that you should definitely avoid.

After making its film festival debut last year, Poolman arrives in the UK as a straight-to-streaming release on Prime Video. It’s easy to understand why it bypassed cinemas (though it did get a theatrical release in the US), as anybody buying tickets to see it on the big screen would likely have asked for their money back. 

Pine, who co-wrote the script with Ian Gotler, stars as Darren Barrenman, a philosophical pool cleaner for an LA apartment block. When Darren’s not tending to the pool, he spends his time writing letters to consumer activist Erin Brockovich to make himself feel less alone. Not that he’s alone very often, however, as he is in an on-again-off-again relationship with a woman named Susan (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who just so happens to be sleeping with his best friend Wayne (John Ortiz). 

Darren is also friends with Diane (Annette Bening), his therapist, and Jack (Danny DeVito), Diane’s romantic partner, who join him on his regular excursions to City Hall where he harangues the councilmen for doing little to support his local community. 

After one particularly aggressive battle at the council offices, Darren gets a visit from June Del Ray (DeWanda Wise), a femme fatale-like figure who works for Councilman Stephen Toronkowski (Stephen Tobolowsky). She believes her boss is trying to orchestrate a shady deal with a real estate developer named Teddy Hollandaise (Clancy Brown) and for reasons that are discovered later, she asks Darren to investigate his corrupt schemings.

From here, the film moves from one badly scripted plot point to another, with Darren becoming increasingly immersed in a mystery that involves dodgy goings-on with the neighbourhood’s underground water supply and a slimy businessman (Ray Wise) who might have something to do with the corruption in the city.

Darren constantly makes references to the Jack Nicholson movie Chinatown, which Poolman seems to be a parodic homage to, but Pine’s film will never receive the classic status of that esteemed movie. While it’s as convoluted as Polanski’s picture and thematically similar, it doesn’t have the same sense of style or narrative bite.

As a supposed comedy, Poolman isn’t funny either. Darren and his friends get into some wacky encounters but with dialogue that is more ear-gratingly annoying than humorous, there is little here to tickle the funny bone. The actors do their best with the material they’ve been given but they’re often left flailing in the wind, thanks to Pine’s loose direction that doesn’t allow them to showcase their dramatic or comedic talents as performers. 

It’s around this point in a review that I would normally mention a movie’s positives to balance the criticism with a little bit of praise. But there really isn’t a lot I can say in defence of a movie as bad as Poolman. The plot is all over the place, character development is non-existent, and the mystery at the core of the tale isn’t given a satisfactory resolution.

It’s a shame the movie is so awful as this was apparently a passion project for Pine. I can only assume he’s happy he managed to get his movie off the ground but I doubt those who see it will feel the same way. There’s certainly potential – it has the weird vibe of a David Lynch or a Jim Jarmusch flick – but it doesn’t have the same level of wit or invention as something from one of those directors. 

In short, Poolman isn’t worth seeing, unless you are somebody who enjoys bad cinema. If that isn’t you, I would recommend you skip this one as Pine’s first movie as a director is a muddled mess that drowns in the murky waters of its own mediocrity.


Read More: Poolman Ending Explained

  • Verdict - 2/10