Monday, January 18, 2010

This 'Book' is simply brilliant

"The Book of Eli"
Three stars

By Thomas Tracy

When the bombs fall and the world is turned to ash, we’re going to need the word of God more than ever.

Whether that’s true or not, that’s the crux of brilliant post-apocalyptic action-heavy drama “Book of Eli.”But it’s not brilliant because the Hughes brothers (“From Hell”) did an amazing job -- they did pretty well with the material they had to work with.

It’s brilliant because Eli’s America is nothing but a white sun-bleached wasteland where water is scarce, Chapstick and shampoo are even harder to find and all you have to look forward to after a hard day on the scorched road is a soothing rubdown with a KFC wet nap.

The only thing better is spending the night reading the Bible, which Eli (Denzel Washington, “American Gangster”) happens to have the last copy of. In a swipe at our current war on terror, it’s mentioned briefly that all the other good books were burned because it was believed that they sparked the war. Part soft-spoken apostle, part Ninja, Eli has no problem quoting the Book of Genesis as he eviscerates a team of foul-smelling hijackers with his gleaming short saber on his trek across a godless middle America.

As luck will have it, he passes through a town whose leader (Gary Oldman, “The Dark Knight”) knows just how powerful the words in that book can be and how it can be used to keep the desperate masses under his thumb as he plans to rebuilds the world in his image.

Despite the heavy theological themes about the power of religion, the Hughes brothers save us by not getting too preachy, swapping any long-winded discussions on the issue with superb fight scenes sure to illicit a gasp or two.

A visit to the home of two cannibals who enjoy sipping tea while listening to Donna Summer helps everyone catch their breath before the chase -- and the ensuing carnage -- continues (as other reviewers have said, it’s strange that everyone seems to prioritize the manufacturing of bullets and bombs before food or clothes in this future).

The Hughes Brothers manage to craft quite a possible apocalyptic future by merging last year’s less-successful “The Road” with “The Road Warrior” and a whole host of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns.

But everything would still be laughable if it wasn’t for Washington, who infuses his anti-social anti-hero with a special single-mindedness that everyone can root for -- no matter what their religious leaning.

"The Book of Eli." Starring Denzel Washington, Mila Kunis and Gary Oldman. Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes. Running time: 118 minutes. Rated R for some brutal violence and language.

Playing in Brooklyn at Access Digital Theatres - Pavilion Cinema in Park Slope, UA Court Street Stadium 12 in Downtown Brooklyn, UA Sheepshead Bay 14, Kent Theatre in Coney Island, Bay Ridge Alpine Cinemas, and Linden Boulevard Multiplex Cinemas in East New York.


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