Directed by Joe Roth.
Written by Richard Price. Based on the novel by Richard
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Julianne Moore, Edie Falco and Ron
Release Year: 2006
Review Date: 2/16/06
Another day, another freebie--this go-round,
it was the new kidnapped-kid/racial tension drama "Freedomland", by
the same guy that wrote the similarly tense racial drama "Clockers",
one of the few books I read during the 1990s.
Also based on a book (that is based on a
real-life case), "Freedomland" takes place in New Jersey, 1999,
where in a mostly-black community, a white mother named Brenda
(Julianne Moore) shows up at a hospital one night with blood all
over her hands and a strange story to back up her situation--she was
carjacked by a mysterious black man, who failed to notice that her
four-year-old son Cody was sitting in the backseat. Now that
the case is a kidnapping, long-tenured Detective Council (Samuel L.
Jackson)--a respected cop in this particular neighborhood--meets
with Brenda and tries to gather the facts that will help them rescue
her son. Complications arise early and often, and eventually,
they lead down a totally different path from where we start the
journey...but, the question remains: where the hell is Cody?
Two of the black D.C. radio stations--93.9
WKYS (hip-hop) and the Magic, 102.3 (R&B)--sponsored this viewing,
and as such, we had a mix of younger black folks and older black
folk, mixed in with some white folks that are part of the DC Film
Society. This, my friends, led to a fantastic and explosive
audience, one that reacted like they were on a roller coaster during
various racial profiling sequences or at any time when blacks and
whites are, ahem, unharmonious onscreen. Predictably, the
community where the child has been kidnapped--98% black people--and
the community's police force (strangely, about 80% white) are going
to brawl, and in the buildup to this even our audience seemed mixed
on what was going on. The number of women behind me that
screamed "crazy white bitch!" every time Moore's character was
onscreen was just kind of funny to me, not because they were saying
it, but because they were saying it so loud. This led to other
moments where black characters were just talkin', and white folk
were laughing because the lines were so foreign to them; usually, a
black guy saying "slow your roll" onscreen wouldn't make someone in
the know laugh, but damn if it didn't get some of the older white
folk sitting next to me to giggle, which led some of the black folk
behind to shush the white folk, who were not amused.
What did all of this mean? My audience
ALONE added points for the overall viewing experience for me.
This audience was fired up! They laughed hard whenever Sam
smack-talked a colleague into submission; they gasped when
characters were slapped, or beaten, or worse; they were stunned into
silence watching Edie Falco do just about anything, playing the
leader of an organization whose goal is to help track down kidnapped
children. A great audience adds so much to a movie, and it did
it for me during "Freedomland", even IF about a half-dozen parents
decided to use the movie theater as their MOTHER FUCKING DAY CARE
CENTER, letting little Bobby and Sally run free LIKE FUCKING
GAZELLES through the aisles of our theater, rarely heeding the calls
of pissed-off audience members to TAKE THEIR FUCKING NOISEMAKER OUT
OF THE THEATER TO LET THE KIDS COOL THEIR FUCKING HEELS!!!
Trust me, I love kids. Just not in the
Anyway, when I really thought about it, "Freedomland"
does many things wrong but the drama is intense, lending an air of
authenticity to another situation where we can't just all get along.
Moore really does sob and break down as well as, if not better than,
any actress working today; she absolutely looks insane in this part,
and one can only imagine how many takes it took to get her part
right...how many times in a row can you do a minute-long jabbermouth
routine where you are crying and trying to speak lovingly about your
missing child? This is far from Oscar-worthy work for Moore,
but that's because of a so-so storyline, not because of her
acting--this is why everyone loves the woman. Sam looks
world-weary in this role, not unlike Al Pacino did in
"Insomnia" in terms
of playing a part that he's played so many times before; by the time
Sam, in character, is spouting off about being a cop "for 22 years",
I just threw my hands up, as if to say
"Sam, come on, bro! You've GOT to do
something new! Say 'motherfucker' backwards or some shit, but
mix it up, baby!"
Seriously, he even gets to say "You can kiss
my black ass!" in "Freedomland", which made me laugh 1) because the
timing was perfect and 2) I'm certain he has played a character that
has said "You can kiss my black ass!" at least five other times.
Could someone fact-check that for me?
Director Joe Roth has created a strong
environment for his performers in "Freedomland"; odd, given how bad
many of Roth's other efforts have been as a director and producer:
"Christmas with the Kranks", "America's Sweethearts", and
Homicide" are recent examples of Roth's efforts in filmmaking,
hardly superior work. But he is aided by not only his two
leads but strong support work from Ron Eldard as Brenda's cop
brother, character vet William Forsythe as Council's partner and two
of the guys from the HBO drama
"The Wire", Clarke Peters and Domenick Lombardozzi. While
the ending is drawn out a bit--especially since we find out what
really happened 20 minutes before the film eeks out a
conclusion--the pacing for the first 90 minutes was excellent,
introducing characters in due time and giving me a mix of race
rioting, tension, kidnapping sequences and random beatdowns.
I think that on normal days, "Freedomland"
would be a middle-of-the-road performer. But, thanks to a free
ticket and an audience to die for, I had a better time than some of
you will. Just don't shoot the messenger when you blow out.
Rating: $9.50 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$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
"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 bad...man, 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
"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