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"Deja Vu"

Directed by Tony Scott.
Written by Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio.
Starring Denzel Washington, Paula Patton, Val Kilmer and Jim Caviezel.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  11/27/06


The folks who came up with the sometimes-ridiculous, sometimes-imaginative script for "Deja Vu" must have been prepped for comments that for star Denzel Washington, these half-baked crime thrillers really DO seem like "Deja Vu" fact, being directed again by Tony Scott (who also did Denzel in "Crimson Tide" and "Man on Fire"), Denzel almost goes out of his way to make this appear like any other Denzel movie.

Is that because he's bored?  This go-round, he's ATF investigator Doug Carlin, who shows up on Fat Tuesday in New Orleans to find a crime scene of epic proportions: 543 Naval officers and their familes were blown up on a Canal Street ferry by a nefarious "patriotic" criminal named Carroll Oerstadt (Jim Caviezel, who even feels familiar in his role).  Also tied into the ferry investigation: a beautiful woman named Claire (Paula Patton, from this summer's OutKast musical "Idlewild"), who met with the killer just days before the explosion.  But, since Carlin is about 10,000 times more street smart than every other cop, FBI and ATF investigator attached to this investigation, he is asked by a fed (Val Kilmer, taking the check) to help lead a special task force with a new tool that can look into the past exactly four-and-a-half days ago with four random satellites that also have the ability to look through walls, pick up sound of its subjects and even other people's cell phones and look from angles that defy everything you thought you knew about cameras.

So, as sci-fi, "Deja Vu" comes up with an interesting idea, but the whole time, you aren't wowed by it so much as mystified...this is a standard-issue thriller that has one mini-curveball to allow Carlin a way to catch a killer, but this could have been written any number of different ways and it still would feel just as familiar.  Some of that is due to Denzel, who just HAS to be bored doing the kinds of films that he sometimes appears in; he did direct "Antwone Fisher", which was generally well-received, but he hasn't gone back to doing things like that since.  Doesn't he want to do something that doesn't take place in the here and now?  Doesn't he want to do a comedy?  Maybe an independent film?  Because everyone loves Denzel, maybe he's afraid to upset the people by actually taking a chance, but since "Virtuosity" tanked more than 10 years ago, he has mostly stayed close to the vest with his choices and I think it's got to be killing him creatively.  Many of the films since have been good--in the case of "Training Day", "Devil in a Blue Dress", and "Remember the Titans", they've been great--but none of them really made you say wow, not like you did when you saw "Glory", or "Crimson Tide", or "Philadelphia", or "Malcolm X."  His next film apparently is an epic co-starring his "Virtuosity" co-star Russell Crowe, so hopefully things are looking up.

But, in "Deja Vu", nothing out of the ordinary happens, but thanks to director Scott's talents with keeping his productions lively, this film is very watchable even if you know exactly what's going to happen.  Patton is stunning, even roughed up, as she looks throughout this film; even though Kilmer looks like he was just visiting the set one day to see his old buddy Scott (who directed him in "Top Gun" and "True Romance") and added to the film for a few days' worth of shooting, it doesn't matter because you love Val Kilmer no matter what it is he's doing.  And, as a movie shot in post-Katrina New Orleans, it's always nice when people will throw money into a big production to help support the community.

Doesn't change the fact that "Deja Vu" still only shoots for mediocrity and reaches it, but, you know.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09