Palmer review – Justin Timberlake aims for redemption in familiar drama

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The singer-cum-actor doesn’t have quite enough gravitas to lift a predictable story of an ex-convict forced to look after a kid

Within the first 15 or so minutes of Apple TV+’s Palmer, something clicks in, a feeling of overwhelming familiarity, an inner voice quietly realising, “Ohhh, it’s that movie.” In this particular instance, that movie being the one about the ex-con who must make good with the help of a cute kid, a sturdy tale oft-told. It’s not that reheating leftovers can’t make for a filling meal but when done with such low energy and with such a low-wattage central performance, it’s hard to see the point. Why not, errrr, tell a new story instead?

To give screenwriter Cheryl Guerriero some credit, there is a slight tweak to the formula and it’s one that gives Palmer its most, arguably only, vaguely interesting moments. While the titular character, played by Justin Timberlake, is every frosty movie ex-con with an easily flipped frown you can think of, the kid who melts him is a gender non-conforming boy who lives in the trailer next door, an intriguingly untold dynamic but one that promises far more than is delivered. Palmer, straight out of jail for a violent crime and straight into the house of his grandmother, played by June Squibb, is eager to restart his life.

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