THE BOOK OF ELI - IN THEATERS NOW

It seems almost criminal that its been almost 10 years since the Hughes Brothers last had a feature film in multiplexes.  They kicked off the 90s with the dazzling one-two punch of MENACE II SOCIETY (1993) and DEAD PRESIDENTS (1995) then seemingly got lost in studio politics and the self-produced indie doc AMERICAN PIMP (1999) before finally coming back with the underappreciated Jack-The-Ripper flick FROM HELL (2001) starring Johnny Depp.

In the meantime a slew of other indie auteurs have moved their way up to directing major Hollywood franchises.  Not to knock Doug Liman, Marc Forster or Christopher Nolan, but one could argue the Hughes Brothers should have long been playing in the league of big-budget blockbusters.

This Friday, Allen and Albert get their chance with the release of  2010’s first big movie, THE BOOK OF ELI.  A no holds barred sci-fi apocalyptic western, this violent epic delivers the goods, anchored by a solid performance by Denzel Washington and a solid cast of supporting players.

*****

Much in the way of the best Sergio Leone westerns of the late 1960s, the movie starts off slooow.  With very little dialog for the first 10 minutes, it takes you into its world.  A world of nuclear fallout, where it seems everything we are used to has been reversed.  Food and Water are scare.  Things we place little value on are now cherished commodities.  Perhaps the most valuable objects are books.  Many were destroyed after the apocalypse and Eli (played by Denzel) holds perhaps the most valuable of them all. As the action picks up, we realize he is on a mission to protect it as he travels west.  Alone an on foot, he uses his amazing skills of perception and ability to slay all who step in his way to protect it.

The Book Of Eli benefits from an amazing script credited to first-timer Gary Whitta.  Anyone familiar with classic Samurai films will no doubt be familiar with the texture of the film-its ebb and flow between right and wrong.  Denzel grounds the character with trademark emotional fortitude.  Jennifer Beals, Mila Kunis and Gary Oldman breath life into characters that would otherwise be symbols in lesser hands.  We don’t need a backstory-he is guided by faith.  If there is a flaw with the film, it would be it’s pedantic nature.  Most sci-fi works as an allegory for what is happening in current times.  By moving things into the future, a space is created where we can absorb criticism and observation about what is going on in our times.

The Book Eli is protecting is a very specific book.  Unlike a New Age Sci Fi like The Matrix, there are no grey areas in this allegory.  The Book Of Eli is straight up Christian allegory.  While the film makes solid reference to how power can be abused, and scores points on how we should place value on simpler things, in an era where it seems we could lose our lives at any moment because of one person or another’s fundamentalist belief, THE BOOK OF ELI ultimately becomes another cog in Hollywood’s propaganda machine.  From a Reelblack standpoint, this like  I AM LEGEND is fantastic in that it imagines people of  color being heroes in the future, but frustrates in the fact that we still are unable to procreate (Public Enemy is still right-there’s a tremendous Fear of A Black Planet).   Book Of Eli is RECOMMENDED.   The Hughes Brothers demonstrate once again their tremendous gift as visual storytellers.  They take us into a world, deliver the goods and make believers of us all.

The Book Of Eli is in theaters everywhere.  There’s no need to buy the bootleg!

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