Directed by David Fincher.
Written by James Vanderbilt. Based on the novel by Robert
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards and Robert
Release Year: 2007
Review Date: 2/27/07
When I got to the theater for a freebie
performance of "Zodiac" last week in Georgetown, I was troubled to
see that our theater was only half-full for what should make a
decent amount of cash at the box office. Directed by David
Fincher, who in directing "Se7en", "Fight Club" and "Panic Room"
over the last decade, "Zodiac" should have at least his cult
following of fans in attendance and for whatever reason, this puppy
was very lightly attended.
Not that they missed much. The
real-life incidents profiled in "Zodiac" follow the events of July
of 1969 in northern California through an almost unreal series of
killings, correspondence with the San Francisco media, and first the
closing of the case following an undetermined number of murders only
to watch the case be re-opened thanks to the work of a cartoonist
who worked at the San Francisco Chronicle when the case first made
headlines. We start by watching the first murder on record, on
July 4th, 1969, when the killer (who calls himself Zodiac) attacks a
couple making out in a random park; from there, Zodiac sends his
first letter to the Chronicle, along with a code that supposedly
gives away his true identity in order to torment the police.
The cartoonist at the Chronicle, Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal),
goes about trying to break the killer's strange code, while the
paper's main crime beat reporter, Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.),
tries to learn more about the police investigation into the
killings. The film "Zodiac" then introduces a second pair of
individuals that we will follow throughout the course of the
action--the two cops assigned to the Zodiac case, David Toschi (Mark
Ruffalo) and Bill Armstrong (Anthony Edwards). Over the course
of many years and many murders, we watch as the principals try to
narrow their list of suspects.
"Zodiac" is quite the thriller...for the
first hour. As is typical of other Fincher productions,
"Zodiac" is visually effective, featuring strong performances from
even the bit players on the roster. It is constantly in motion
and is a thriller in every sense of the word. Then, as we
think we are getting close to the resolution, the thrill starts to
fade a bit; this is due to any number of factors--following
Graysmith's family life (the rise, his chance date with a woman
played by ChloŽ Sevigny who he eventually marries, to the fall, when
this woman presents problems with her--shocker!--demand that
Graysmith walk away from the case), or maybe running out of killings
to cover, or running out of puzzles to solve--but the main fade
factor is this:
"Zodiac" is 160 minutes long!!!!
"Thrillers" don't last longer than "Dances
with Wolves"--period. No one is marketing the fact that
"Zodiac" is this long, and with good reason; it literally kills any
momentum built up over the first hour. There is a point in
"Zodiac"--multiple points, actually, but one point in particular
that I can't mention without spoiling some things--where you are
pretty sure the movie is over, only to find out that it is not...so
not over, in fact, that we are another hour away from the real end
of the film, and you are sitting there thinking that you are in
prison, helpless to move because you just want to see how things
really work out in the end. But, I can't believe that Fincher
couldn't find a way to wrap this puppy up sooner. It's agony
to sit through.
That being said, "Zodiac" really does have a
nice, eclectic cast with another strong Downey Jr. performance; the
other folks are poorly-drawn characters played by standout
performers, so this makes those roles quite watchable. (At
least, for a while.) Any film set in San Francisco as a period
piece is going to be fun for me, but strangely, the film isn't as
sexy as I thought it would be even though I will admit the
cinematography and intermingling of special effects is quite nice.
And, the family element of Graysmith's life could have been lopped
off altogether and I wouldn't have missed it a bit.
"Zodiac" is disappointing, especially given
how much I loved Fincher's last few films. (Really, everything
except "Alien 3" was at least good, if not great.) Again, if
you do decide to check this out, be sure to take a potty break
before going into the theater; you'll thank me later for that!
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