Reptile’s 10 Biggest Plot Holes & Head Scratchers

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Warning; This article contains spoilers for the movie Reptile!

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Summary

  • Detective Nichols’ failure to make a copy of the flash drive is a plot hole, but it adds tension to the scene.
  • Nichols should have gone to the FBI to expose the police corruption and protect himself and his wife.
  • Nichols’ late questioning of Eli and his decision to confront Allen without backup are illogical and put him in unnecessary danger.

Reptile is a gripping murder mystery, but it’s not without its plot holes and head scratchers. While Scarborough police detective Tom Nichols (Benicio Del Toro) tries to track down who killed a young real estate agent, he ends up uncovering a drug scheme that has mired his department in corruption, but the entire investigation is plagued with questions. While the film does its best to be a taut thriller with myriad twists and turns, there are a few illogical inconsistencies that end up making Nichols look like an inept cop, and the suspects appear to be red herrings for their own sake.

Fortunately, strong performances, inventive cinematography, and good pacing help Reptile when it begins to feel formulaic and predictable. While these plot holes prevent it from being on the same level as Mystic River, The Departed, or Copland, the characters in Reptileare humanized even if their flaws challenge credulity or cause narrative problems. Some elements that don’t make sense are designed to keep viewers guessing until the end of Reptile, when all that really matters is if they were entertained, and figured out who the “reptile” really is.

10 Why Didn’t Nichols Make A Copy Of The Flash Drive?

Reptile-Detective-Nichols-Benicio-Del-Toro

When Detective Nichols discovers the connection between the confiscated drugs and the houses purchased for a song by Will Grady’s shell real estate company, the evidence is placed on a flash drive. Even as he’s showing it to the chief of police, he’s asked if the flash drive is the only one in existence, which is the first hint that his commanding officer already knows about the corruption in his department. It doesn’t make any sense that Nichols wouldn’t make a copy of the flash drive just in case, but that wouldn’t have made the scene quite as tense.

9 Why Didn’t Nichols Go Straight To The FBI?

Ato Essandoh as Dan Cleary in Reptile on Netflix.

Given that Summer had already tried to contact the FBI, it seems like Detective Nichols should have also gone above his own department in order to shine a light on its corruption. By going to the FBI, even anonymously he could have avoided a lot of potential danger. It’s possible that he wanted to keep the problem localized until he was absolutely sure that he had enough evidence to implicate the Scarborough police department in the White Fish scheme, but going to the FBI would definitely have kept him and his wife out of harm’s way.

8 Nichols Failing To Question Eli Sooner Makes No Sense

Eli-Phillips-Michael-Pitt-in-Reptile

In his initial investigation, Nichols has a few suspects that had motive to kill Summer, including her ex-husband and new boyfriend Will Grady. However, Eli Phillips was a pretty obvious choice, and it took Nichols a suspicious amount of time to get around to questioning him. Even after he found out about Eli’s vendetta against Will’s family, he didn’t look any further into Eli’s knowledge of White Fish until he came to his house and perceivably threatened Judy, and by the time he was interested in questioning Eli, Will and his accomplice had already got there first.

7 What Happened To Eli?

Michael-Pitt-Eli-Philips-Reptile

Eli went from being a primary suspect to the person with all the answers, but unfortunately for him, Will Grady and a mysterious intruder got to him before Nichols could question him a final time. Eli’s fate is ambiguous and perhaps intentionally so, with nothing but a bleach bottle pointing to possible body dismemberment and cleaning up any incriminating evidence. Considering the fact that he had a knife on his person when he found Will Grady in his home, he probably didn’t go down without a fight.

6 Why Did Nichols Go Into Allen’s House After Uncovering The Police Corruption?

Benicio Del Toro in Reptile
Benicio Del Toro in Reptile

After discovering the Chrysler Imperial in Captain Allen’s garage and determining that he was involved in the same scheme as Wally and the rest of the department, Nichols contemplates how best to handle the situation, and ultimately decides to go to see Allen with the chief of police and confront him. Knowing Allen and Wally will probably threaten him, he doesn’t go unarmed, but the entire confrontation that ensues begs the question of why he agreed to go at all, much less corner the chief of police in the bathroom after already hearing Allen get shot upstairs by Wally and thus leaing his back exposed.

5 What Happened To Summer’s Killer’s Limp?

Justin Timberlake in Reptile
Justin Timberlake in Reptile

It’s established early in the investigation by an eyewitness that a man was seen exiting the Chrysler Imperial with a limp, yet the only person who has a perceivable limp is Captain Allen due to his MS, and given how much the disease impedes physical activity, he wouldn’t have been able to overpower a healthy person like Summer and stab her 27 times. Will Grady is determined to be the killer but he doesn’t have a limp, so either he walked with a limp intentionally to throw off the police, or Allen was present at the scene but didn’t kill Summer, which would have been just as odd.

4 If Will Killed Summer, Where Was The Blood?

Justin Timberlake in Reptile movie on Netflix

The way that Will is presented to be the killer occurs in a somewhat confusing flashback where he’s standing over her body and she’s still breathing (albeit on the verge of bleeding out). Curiously, there’s not a drop of blood on him, nor signs of a struggle when obviously the attack just happened. In the beginning of Reptile, he’s seen adjusting his shirt, and could possibly be making sure none of Summer’s blood is visible, but as is evident in the flashback, he must have been wearing something else that he disposed of.

3 What’s With Nichols’ Wax Hand?

Judy peels wax off of Tom's hand.

Hardly the type to get a manicure, Nichols nevertheless puts his hand in paraben wax one evening which his wife Judy carefully removes. Nothing is expressed between the two characters that indicates what it’s for, and while it could pertain to the investigation in some way, or even the injury he mentioned in the beginning of Reptile, it more than likely has something to do with arthritis in Nichols’ hand. At one point he also massages the same hand, indicating that it possibly aches or gives him discomfort. It’s just one of the many things that humanizes his character.

RELATED: Reptile: Why Judy Puts Tom’s Hand In Wax

2 Why Did Wally Shoot Allen?

Benicio Del Toro and Alicia Silverstone in Reptile
Benicio Del Toro and Alicia Silverstone in Reptile

Wally ends up shooting Captain Allen when Nichols arrives to bust him, but it hardly seemed necessary given that Nichols arrived with the chief of police who was also in on the scheme. While it’s true, Allen did let Nichols know just how high up the chain of command the corruption went, killing him for warning Nichols seems reckless even for Wally. Killing him warned Nichols that he was there, and he lost the element of surprise, allowing Nichols to get the drop on him later.

1 How Did The Scarborough Police Expect To Get Away With 4 Murders?

Alicia-Silverstone-Reptile

After already covering up Summer’s murder and presumably Eli’s as well, how did the Scarborough police department expect to get away with Allen’s murder and eventually Nichols? Eventually, the mounting body count of people all connected to the case would be too much for the FBI to ignore. Even with the department covering up for one another, they couldn’t possibly kill everyone in Reptile who found out about the White Fish scheme without being discovered.