About 2 years ago at the San Diego Comic Convention, I remember I was sitting at my table staring at Tim Bradstreet across the canyon of geeks and fans wondering about this Geek Nirvana, when out of the crowd came David Goyer. I had met him just once before when he was in Austin hammering out some rewrite work with Guillermo Del Toro on BLADE 2. At this point, Guillermo was off in Spain shooting DEVIL’S BACKBONE. Goyer just dropped by the table to say, "Hi!" I asked him what he was up to these days, hoping to get a bit of dish on GHOST RIDER, when he told me that he was going to be directing his first film, called "ZigZag" based upon this novel by some guy named Landon J Napoleon. I remember him telling me that it probably wouldn’t be my type of thing, that it wasn’t genre based, I assured him that, contrary to popular opinion, I do like non-scifi-horror-fantasy-sex-comedy-film noir too. He smiled, and told me it was about a young Autistic boy with an abusive father. Sigh… at the time I feigned interest… but from his mini ‘pitch’ it certainly seemed to be about as interesting as a nasal drip.
Time goes by (astoundingly quickly) and it is suddenly SXSW 2002 and in the program guide I see that there is a film called ZIGZAG directed by David Goyer starring John Leguizamo, Wesley Snipes, Oliver Platt and Natasha Lyonne about a young Autistic boy with an abusive father. My immediate thought was… cool cast, blah subject… But I figure, "What the heck?" right?
So I show up at the Paramount tonight, hoping that Goyer will debut as a director tonight worthy of not slamming in a dumpster filled with broken beer bottles. I hobble my way into the grand dame of a theatre, take off my overcoat, when I feel a tap on my unstable shoulders. I turn to see a hand extended and a voice say, "Hi, I’m David Goyer… glad you could make it out to the film." Internally I laugh, we’ve met before. I tell him that I look forward to seeing what he did his first time out of the gate. He tells me that he’s set to direct a horror film based on a work by a prominent horror writer, who he asked me not to reveal… and my immediate thought was… Ah, he’s assuring me that he learned his lesson about working outside his genre abilities… God, I hope this doesn’t suck too bad.
Soon the film is started and instantly I was captivated. From the opening frames of ZigZag, "Two big Z’s and two little G’s" riding his bike… Taking the first beating from his crackhead father played by Wesley Snipes, in what I feel is his best performance to date… I was hooked.
Goyer’s visual style is absolutely arresting. His casting was impeccable and the performances are uniformly great. The story is absolutely intoxicating. From beginning to end, I was in love with this film.
The whole movie hinges on the performance of a young boy played by Sam Jones III. This is a discovery. A young black actor of breathtaking ability. ZigZag is the name his Big Brother, "Though not for real," gave him. His unreal Big Brother is played by John Leguizamo in what I hold as being one of his best outings. John underplays the role… resisting to go over the top… Hoping to save this boy from the horrible at home situation that he’s in… Dealing with his own personal horror. He got ZigZag a job working at a flophouse restaurant run by the cantankerous ‘Toad’ played with extreme Cajun zeal by Oliver Platt. Platt is brilliant in this movie. The absolute best performance from him since FUNNY BONES, which he was a God in! Through ‘Toad’, ZigZag meets Natasha Lyonne’s Jenna… a prostitute that services the rather disgusting Toad after hours.
How all these characters come together… How the story revolves around the survival of this fragile character played with such wonder by Sam Jones III… Well, the story is about redemption, innocence, loss of innocence and ultimately survival. It is heart-breakingly beautiful at times. It reminded me of another great film I loved a few years back called THE MIGHTY. It has that same magical sense of youthful dreaming and imagination meshing with the terror that can come crashing in with reality.
Goyer has proven himself to not only be able to direct 3 of the best performances out of well known established actors (Oliver Platt, John Leguizamo and Wesley Snipes), but coaxing a career making role from first timer Sam Jones III.
Throughout this film he has wonderful little side characters like the Detective investigating the theft of money from Oliver Platt’s restaurant safe. Played by Sherman Augustus, this character which could have been written off and played as just your average Joe Friday… well instead he has wonderful little bits… moments, out-bursts… Pieces that just bring this barely on screen character to life.
Then there is Patton Oswalt’s strip club admission guy. A tiny role… stuck behind a grate, but Patton is irrepressibly funny in the part… the way he’s just a total ass to Leguizamo and the kid. Hiring a comedian of Oswalt’s caliber to deliver that character was just a thing of minimalist beauty.
This needs to be in theaters around October or so. Perhaps making a run on nailing some supporting actor nominations. Frankly, Oliver Platt could win Best Supporting Actor or at least make a very strong run for it here. He is simply that good. Listening to the way he can make one word lines seem like genius in this part. You’ve just got to see and hear it. Fan-fucking-tastic.
Of all the films I’ve seen at the fest this year, this one had the loudest and the longest sustained applause. Had Goyer brought out Sam Jones III, the theater would have risen to its feet cheering. What a magnificent role. If you’ve watched "SMALLVILLE" and seen his Pete Ross… you’d have no clue how brilliant he is here.
This film deserves to get a major release with a campaign aimed to get critic and society awards. This will be one of the best films you see all year long. Intimate and soulful. Great work here from Goyer, if he brings the same amount of heart and eye for detail that he did here on this mysterious horror film he’s going to be working on next… We have great things to look forward to.
This was the film's World Premiere. Hopefully it'll be at a theater near you soon.