Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Book of Eli (**1/2)

The Book of Eli. 118 mins. R. Directed by the Hughes Brothers. Written by Gary Whitta. Starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Winstone, and Michael Gambon.

I'm not quite sure what to make of The Book of Eli, the post-apocalyptic, Bible-thumping bloodbath from co-directing brothers Allen and Albert Hughes. The movie aims to appeal to both the action-loving crowd and Christian moviegoers alike, with one of the most mixed messages I've seen in a movie in quite a while: spread the word of God, but kill every last motherf**ker that gets in your way. Denzel (commanding the screen as always) stars as a loner walkabout named Eli, who's on a mission to deliver the last-known copy of the Bible to an undisclosed location. He wields one helluva blade and sports bad-ass shades, all while walking to the camera in ultra slow motion. He's also quick to kill anybody that gets in his way, which proves to be a lot of people since main baddie (or is he?) Gary Oldman is after the Bible as well and will do anything to get his hands on it. There are some nifty action set pieces in the movie, with the highlight probably coming in the last third when Eli and his companion (Mila Kunis) are holed up in an old cannibal couple's house while Oldman and his cronies fire upon them from outside. In what seems like one continuous take, the camera goes from out of the house to in it and back out again through the bullet holes. Cool stuff. Too bad the movie's so sluggish in between the rousing action scenes. It's nice to have the Hughes Brothers back behind the camera again (they haven't directed a movie since '01's From Hell), but The Book of Eli is a confused and scattershot effort, with one of those twist endings that plays more like "What?!" than "Whoa!" Worth a look on DVD though.

- John


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