Review: The Book of Eli

A post-apocalyptic world of Denzel ass-kicking, Mila annoying and Oldman menacing entertains but doesn’t thrill for two hours.  It just feels like we’ve seen it before, only less biblical.  It’s Mad Denzel: The Road Prophet/Warrior.

The Hughes Bros. return from a nine-year absence (last film – From Hell) to bring us The Book of Eli: a Mad Max do-over complete with armour covered cars and desolate locations only with a religious twist.  Visually it’s a winner but the story lacks punch.  Or kick. Or something else violent to the brain.

A lone man walks across the U.S. for 30 years, headed west (yeah I didn’t think it would take that long either) to deliver his book through an apocalyptic world.  On his pilgrimage, he encounters those trying to survive and thrive in this bleak environment.  Whether their cannibals, highjackers or Gary Oldman, they each want some something…usually something Denzel has.   To get to his destination, he must overcome these challenges, both physical threats (including headache inducing –Mila Kunis) and of his faith.

I wanted to see this movie the minute Denzel backed up into the shadows to kick some vagrant ass.  Plus the Hughes Brothers did pretty damn good with Johnny Depp in From Hell so it seemed like a good bet.  I knew there was a religious slant to the movie (and I’m not ruining anything…check the trailer) but unless it’s REALLY preachy, it doesn’t turn me off.

Denzel is great as a tough guy.  He did intimidating as hell in Man on Fire and I was happy to see him back at it here.  The action scenes were impressive for two reasons:
1) He did it himself  2) It was edited as much as most movies are these days making the scene in the tunnel really impressive.  Beyond badass, Preacher Denzel was just fine.  Not too much on spreading the gospel and more focused in his mission.  Thank god. (pun intended).

The rest of the cast did what they needed to do.  No one does better at the bad guy than Gary Oldman.  So much so that it’s almost surprising when he isn’t the antagonist.  His part is pretty clichéd – the big bad in a small western town who has the townsfolk under his thumb.   No surprises here but it is Gary Oldman so he’s just a little more fun to watch. Mila Kunis and Jennifer Beals bring the pretty.  They don’t stand out from an acting point of view but they don’t hurt anything either.  Though Mila was a little on the pushy/annoying side. Ray Stevenson (HBO’s Rome, The Punisher: War Zone) brings a little more to the table as Henchman #1 with a love of all things Mila but not much more.

The action, explosions and fight scenes are pretty damn all right.  Cars flipping through the air, beheadings a plenty and nifty uses for a bow and arrow.  It all looks good.  Even the post-apocalyptic world has its own grey yet sunny look to it (let’s everyone wear shades and look cool).  One big complaint I had with the movie was the product placement.  There are two instances involving KFC and Maxwell that were so blatant they were funny.  Even at the end of the world, marketing has its place.

There has been some talk about the end of the movie.  You either go with it or you don’t.  Me?  I actually really liked the ending.  I thought it was appropriate and a great little twist.  There’s a lot worse movies that asked me to “go with it” and just didn’t take me far enough for me to do that.  I had no problem here.

2 stars – go, but don’t tell anyone. If I did one and a half tickets, I’d give it to this movie.  Let’s say: story – solid renter, visuals – better in the theatre.  You can make the decision from that.

Coming Attractions:
Contrary to popular opinion, it isn’t always the easiest thing to pick just one trailer a week to highlight as my Coming Attraction.  This week I had to go with two.  Hey.  I was torn.  It was either the comedic stylings of Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly OR the comedic stylings of Ryan Reynolds getting buried alive.  Both ripe with high-larious potential.

Cyrus (release date: 2010 sometime) – Jonah Hill: c0&#blocker from hell.

Buried (release date: 2010 sometime too) – Ryan Reynolds in a box.

Randomly Recommended
Romeo is Bleeding (1993) – I haven’t seen this one in a while but it always stuck with me.  It’s odd, it’s violent, it’s full of hot/evil Lena Olin – one of the best movie villains you’ll ever see.  Gary Oldman is a corrupt cop working too many angles and we know how that always ends.  If you’re looking for something “not so” mainstream and a little dark, might be worth checking out.

Glory(1989) – For as amazing as Denzel Washington is, he has made a lot of crap (Virtuosity, Out of Time, etc.) but the bright spots have outweighed the bad.  Case in point, this movie won three Oscars including one for Denzel. Morgan Freeman, Matthew Broderick, and Cary Elwes round out a cast telling the story of Robert Gould Shaw and the US Civil War’s first all-black volunteer company.

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  1. I’m sucked in by the trailer, so I’ll probably still watch it, but it will remain a renter. See…I listen to you sometimes.

  2. Lacklustre in places for sure, but there’s something about the aesthetic and atmosphere of The Book of Eli that makes it a worthwhile watch to my mind 🙂

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