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Judge Bender Studies Denzel Washington In The Hughes Brothers' THE BOOK OF ELI!

Beaks here...

The Hughes Brothers are undeniably talented filmmakers. MENACE II SOCIETY still stands as the best of the early 1990s 'hood movies, while DEAD PRESIDENTS flirts with greatness before losing its way about halfway through (though it's still worth watching for Chris Tucker's incredible performance). But FROM HELL was a gorgeously-designed botch, and, for whatever reason, this put the Hughes' career on hold for close to a decade. Now they're back with THE BOOK OF ELI, which, judging from the trailer, appears to be a post-apocalyptic riff on any number of Japanese swordsman tales. The good news: it's surely going to be better than Albert Pyun's OMEGA DOOM. The bad news: if Judge Bender's assessment is spot-on, maybe not by much. It's important to note that Bender viewed an unfinished version of the film. There is still plenty of time to tighten the film up - and perhaps sneak in some reshoots - before its January 15, 2010 release. I should also say that I elided a paragraph from this review because I don't want to spoil the film's big third-act twist. Bender thinks they should jettison this reveal completely, but it sounds like the entire screenplay is building to this moment. Take it away, Judge...
The wife and I were able to catch a private screening of the Hughes Brothers "The Book of Eli" in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. I have been dying for the opportunity to write a review for AICN now for almost a decade but the opportunity had never presented itself to me....until this particular event. We went to a private screening of the new Hughes Brothers directed "The Book of Eli". According to the lady who spoke in front of about a 350 or so theater attendee's, this was the first time EVER anyone had seen this version of the movie. She mentioned the "color" is not fully adjusted and special effects not complete and music is temporary. I am sad to say that while the movie appeared completely done (other than the music and some effects shotes) it didn't seem like anything would be able to save this heep. "The Book of Eli" is apacolyptic in it's tone and allegorical in it's message. You get the idea from the trailer posted on the internet currently. What the trailer fails to indicate is what a mess this story really ends up being. Bascially the end of the world as we know it has occured due to the ravages of a nuclear holocaust 30 years previous. The reasons for the holocaust were religious differences between the countries in control (that could be a reference to any number of potential nuclear war potentials). In many ways the story makes sense. I mean, religious turmoil has been around since the beginning of time and who knows when the button could be pushed by some rogue crazy fuck country. The problem with this particular story is : the dialogue, the acting AND the broad strokes the directors seem to want to take WITH the story. There are no real distinct details to make the story more believeable. Basically, Eli has the only bible left on the planet and with it comes the power to re-evolve the "masses" and put back civilzation on the correct path of redemption. This is the reason, too, that Gary Oldman's character wants the bible. His desire for control is more deviant and repressive. A strange detail to this movie is that it appears that Gary Oldman and Denzel are two of the only people still living that remember what the "book" or bible really is. Kind of hard to believe when you think about it. First off let me say that I love Denzel. I also love Mila. I must say too that I have a bunch of respect for Gary Oldman. These are all "veterans" of the acting genre. When I was watching this movie the only thing I could think about was that this must be either a "joke" reel or they are going to have to go back to have massive re-shoots to cover up some of these scenes. Mila comes across as completely one dimensional as with no real purpose to the story. Spoiler Free Synopsis of the movie: The planet is devastated and inhabitated by a bunch of Road Warrior wannabe's after some type of religion-fueled nuclear war 30 years previous. A man named Eli (Denzel) was given a "message" years previous to deliver a book (the bible) somehere to the WEST for the sake of of a religious "re-birth" and evolution to occur for society. The message "Eli" received was pretty vague and there are underlying challenges he faces to this journey. More cahllenges than actually meet the "eye", so to speak. It will spoil the plot to say anything else but let me tell you this... The only good thing about this movie is Denzel. There is also a MAJOR plot twist that occurs at the end of the movie to indicate to the audience the challenge and sacrifice the journey must have been for "Eli". All I could think when this "twist" occurs was "there is no fucking way that could actually be the case". The Hughes brothers must have thought about the cheapest trick in the book to put over on the audience and then EXPECT them to believe it. And there in lies another problem with the movie. It feels almost as if it is some low budget movie of the week. The pacing and delivery in the current version is also just way too slow. The good: Denzel is GREAT. None of his previous characters come close to what he delivers from a bad-ass perspective. Both gentle at times and lethal at others. I mean really LETHAL. The movie is at its best when the few (too few in my opinion) action sequences occur. Denzel is in a class by himself but the end result is he should've done something with the script/cast before accepting this role. Jennifer Beals plays the she-servant to Gary Oldman's bad guy. She is also the mother of Mila's character. It is too bad that Jennifer is somewhat underused and really the only other positive igredient to the entire cast. The good ends with that. The bad: Gary Oldman- in his typical "waiting to explode with over-acting" bad guy routine. He plays the only other character who realizes the value of the bible. How are he and Denzel the only two people on the planet who know the value of the bible? Just doesn't make sense. Mila Kunis- whom I love- is completely out of place and serves NO purpose in this movie and her acting is about as cardboard as you can get in this movie- but I still love her. The countless dispensable bad-guy goons- the only purpose of these guys is to show the efficiency of Denzel with a blade. The cinematography- looked like a made for t.v. movie. The colorization was awful as well. They said it wasn't completely "colorized" but I can't see how ANY color could help this movie. The best looking part of this movie has been the trailer. Boy does the trailer mispresent this stinker. The whole movie just seemed bland. The ending is what it is. There IS a message to why Eli (Denzel) is delivering the "book" and what it hopes to do for the world. There are really just too many questions at the end of the movie and really not enough to close all of the gaping holes of questions that are never answered. Don't get me wrong. I am all for a great message that will help people realize the benefits of a belief system..blah blah blah...but the movie itself is unbelieveable and therein lies the problem. You just don't suspend belief enough to believe this could happen. If you use this just call me Judge Bender

Thanks for the review, man. Here's hoping I completely disagree with you.

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