‘Damaged’ Ending Explained & 2024 Film Review: Was Dan Lawson The Serial Killer?


Samuel L. Jackson is a living legend because of his immense body of work and his unique ability to make any expletive sound really lyrical. Vincent Cassel is one of the best actors of all time, with several classics under his belt. I don’t think Kate Dickie requires any introduction, and yet, I’ll say that there’s no genre in existence that she hasn’t mastered. Laura Haddock is one of the most underappreciated actors in the industry, and it’s always great to see her on the big screen or on the small screen. Terry McDonough has worked on acclaimed shows like Killing Eve, Better Call Saul, The Expanse, and Suits. Now, a normal person would assume that their collaboration in a movie called Damaged would be fantastic at best and watchable at worst. That normal person would be dead wrong.

Spoiler alert

What Is The Film About?

Six years ago, Dan Lawson, a Chicago-based detective, worked on the case of a serial killer with Detective Bravo. Apparently, the killings were extremely gruesome, and the bodies of the victims were dismembered in the most grotesque fashion imaginable. Nothing much came of it. Everyone moved on. The case was closed. End of story. But, out of the blue, Lawson is called to Scotland because a girl called Abigail Myres has been murdered in a manner that’s similar to the aforementioned killings, thereby raising suspicions about the emergence of a copycat killer. Kessler assigns Lawson to Glen Boyd, who is the running point in this case. Lawson says that Abigail’s murder is similar to the one that he had seen, but it’s not the same. Additionally, it seems to be religiously motivated and probably linked to some kind of cult activity. 

While Lawson and Boyd go on a wild goose chase because they think Abigail’s neighbor, Avery, is the perpetrator, another girl, Grace, is killed, and the crime scene is exactly like Abigail’s. As they comb through the place, Lawson and Boyd again arrive at the conclusion that this serial killer (or copycat killer) is religiously motivated. After doing some more digging, the name McGregor comes up. Since Avery isn’t a person of interest anymore, McGregor takes that spot. Seeing how things are getting murky, Bravo (who is working in the field of making security systems) is brought back into the mix. They reminisce about their drinking habits and the death of Lawson’s wife, Sarah, who was a victim of the aforementioned serial killings that happened six years ago. Meanwhile, Boyd grills Atem Security employee and professional creep, McGregor, and due to his shady past and general off-putting behavior, Boyd locks in on him and moves heaven and earth to get him implicated.

Was Dan Lawson the serial killer?

Boyd arrests McGregor on the suspicion that he is the serial killer who’s terrorizing Scotland. Things take a turn for the worse when Boyd’s wife, Marie, is murdered, with her limbs stuffed in the attic and her torso nowhere to be found. Boyd and Marie’s relationship became shaky after the death of their son, Callum, and while Boyd buried himself in work, Marie allegedly cheated on Boyd. They were starting to renew their bond and planning to have another baby and then go on a lavish vacation. Since that process has been hindered, Boyd stops thinking straight and decides that McGregor is the killer and that he needs to die. During a particularly heated interrogation session, McGregor practically admits that he is a copycat killer who is motivated by anti-religious sentiments and has been spurred into action because of a conversation with “a foreigner.” A few moments later, McGregor is murdered, butchered, and hung up in a toolshed that belongs to McGregor (the lock is opened by a key they found at Abigail’s place). While going through the crime scene, Lawson makes it seem like McGregor was behind the first two copycat murders, and the person who killed Marie and McGregor is the same one from six years ago. 

At the end of Damaged, Lawson uses Bravo’s “foreigner” appeal and the fact that he had crossed paths with McGregor at a security system conference to frame his former partner as the serial killer. However, it’s revealed that Bravo isn’t the serial killer, but Lawson is. According to Lawson’s tale, he knew that his wife, Sarah, had an affair with Bravo. During an argument, Lawson pushed her; she slipped, cracked her head, and died. Here’s where things get a little confusing. So, Lawson went on a killing spree, and all his victims were people who had helped in covering up or aiding Bravo and Sarah’s affair. The arrangement of the body parts wasn’t planned; it was actually random, and it didn’t have any deep, religious connotations. Now, I don’t know if Lawson killed all those people and then made Sarah’s death look like the work of this anonymous serial killer, or if he killed Sarah first and was inspired by the method he used to mutilate her body and then repeated that process during his killing spree. It’s like a chicken-and-egg situation. 

Anyway, the point of the matter is that, in the present day, Lawson is using the copycat killing to frame Bravo. From what I could gather, Lawson is Marie’s killer because her unfaithful behavior reminded him of Sarah. He knew that Marie’s death would cloud Boyd’s judgment, and if he directed him at Bravo, he’d kill him, thereby allowing him to go scot-free again. Lawson killed McGregor because he was butchering his legacy by giving it a religious color. That said, before Lawson can get to use Boyd to kill Bravo, he himself ends up shooting Bravo, and he bleeds out. Lawson goes on the run, and Boyd chases him down. Lawson gets the better of him, and Boyd apparently faints due to exhaustion. Later on, he tries to nab Lawson because he assumes that he is going to leave for America. However, during the concluding moments, it’s revealed that Lawson is driving around in the mountains of Scotland, knowing full well that nobody will be able to catch him—at least not in this lifetime.

Movie Review

Damaged isn’t a technically proficient movie. There’s no passion in the framing of the stars that have been cast in the film. There’s no thrill or suspense. Every setting is lit in the most boring way possible. The editing is horrible. The score is incredibly annoying. The action is awfully bad. As for the plot, at first glance, it can seem like a bog-standard serial killer film, which pushes its most startling revelations towards the tail-end of the running time so that the viewers are too shocked to process it.

However, as someone who has sat with that final revelation for quite a while, I’ll admit that it’s fascinating, and, at the same time, poorly executed. The transference of serial-killing influence shows how violence and misogyny can be passed on from one man to another, even if they are from different countries and have been brought up under wildly different circumstances. Men can ascribe meaning to their actions, which can range from religion to adultery, but it always boils down to this basic need to control and upend the lives of women. I mean, Lawson could’ve been an adult about it, accepted his wife’s failings, and moved on. However, he went on this weird-as-hell tangent and mythologized it to the extent that someone else started aping his methods. And given how realistic it is, I’ll commend the writers of the film, Paul Aniello, Gianni Capaldi, and Koji Steven Sakai. 

That said, I think the presentation could’ve been much better. The dialogues are bland and way too expository in nature. The time dedicated to building up to this grand revelation is simply not good enough. On top of that, the way they rush through it all robs the ending of any impact. The performances from the cast of Damaged should make for an interesting case study. As mentioned before, Jackson is a living legend. Even if he sleepwalks through a role, he is going to ace it, and that’s exactly what he does as Lawson. It’s not a challenging role, and he doesn’t get to stay in that final, unhinged state long enough to flex his acting muscles. Hence, it ends up being a fine but forgettable Samuel L. Jackson performance. Vincent Cassel is severely underutilized. Then again, since it’s Cassel, it’s watchable. 

Gianni Capaldi gives off heavy Donnie-Wahlberg-in-Saw2 vibes, and I mean that in a good way because I’m a fan of the Saw movies. John Hannah is okay. His role had so much potential, but the film just doesn’t push hard enough to make him memorable. Hannah does give McGregor a sinister undercurrent, thereby elevating the shallow characterization of the wannabe serial killer. The way Kate Dickie and Laura Haddock are treated should be considered a crime. They are absolutely relegated to the sidelines. If you don’t pay attention, I think you won’t notice their presence, which is just sad. At the cost of sounding repetitive, I’ll say that Damaged could’ve been a decent crime thriller, but director Terry McDonough and the writers’ inability to truly commit to the depravity of the narrative is what hurts its impact. I am sure that a lot of people will be interested in watching it because of its cast and crew, and I want to tell them that, please, keep your expectations in check.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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