Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Book of Eli


The Book of Eli is an apocalyptic road movie for those who thought The Road was too cerebral yet felt Terminator Salvation was way over the top. Toplining Denzel Washington and helmed by The Hughes Brothers, The Book of Eli wants to be a smart movie and in fact the last act almost seems like a different film if not a philosophical comment on what has come before.
Washington wanders a barren landscape and comes across an ad hoc frontier town run by Gary Oldman. Figuring in the equation are Oldman's blind mistress (Jennifer Beals, too long an absence from the big screen) and her resourceful daughter (Mila Kundis). But Book has several rabbits it wants to pull out of the hat including a weird couple who might have been the lead in Motel Hell (Michael Gambon and Frances de la Tour) as well as Tom Waits as a pawn shop owner, and Malcolm McDowell in an unbilled role that helps explain the significance of the book Eli/Washington totes around.
The book, a version of the King James Bible, is the object of desire and the book provides a unique twist before all is said and done. Between moments of reflection the Hughes Brothers provide some startling violent set pieces, one of which frames the action within the borders of a highway underpass in a manner that reminds of a confrontation from Korean cult classic Old Boy.
The Book of Eli will find cult acceptance with certain audiences while turning other off due to its eventual trajectory. The Hughes Brothers have never realized the potential of their first two films, Menace 2 Society or Dead Presidents, yet they definitely understand the power of narrative shifts. The look of the film strips most color from the image, much of the time resembling black and white with a tone of color thrown in for good measure.

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