See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Book of Eli

Bible burning! Ak-47s! Gnarly decapitations! Saint Denzel Washington!

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Watch out, Denzel's kicking ass for the Lord! Shot like a Nirvana video, The Book of Eli is a post-apocalyptic Western for the Left Behind crowd. Only instead of dainty Kirk Cameron worrying about which souls will make it into heaven, we have Denzel Washington lopping off heads like samurai Zatoichi. It's The Road for those who hated McCarthy's thematic and metaphorical ruminations and longed for a few high-caliber showdowns and some totally righteous decapitations. Unfortunately, when The Book of Eli isn't opening up a can of whoop-ass, it's equally ponderous and self-important. 

Its story setup is pure Fox News fantasy, only instead of Christmas, America goes after the Bible, angrily burning every copy in the fiery aftermath of the "Great War." For those of you with a scorecard, that means 6 billion copies were remaindered in 30 short years. AK-47s, however, are in abundant supply. Enter Eli (Washington), who has been walking west all that time, toting the very last copy of the King James Bible. Guided by divine providence, he keeps his head down and finds small moments of peace listening to his still-functioning iPod (which prompts the question: What about e-books?). Denzel is playing Sergio Leone's "Man With No Name," a brutally efficient loner who is reluctantly drawn into the calamities of preyed-upon innocents. Only instead of villainous Lee Van Cleef, we've got Gary Oldman's Carnegie, desperately seeking the "good book" to do bad deeds. See, Carnegie understands that a man with all those pretty words of faith will be able to charm the masses and build an empire — or some such nonsense.

While the fight scenes (too few and far between) snap and crack with stark cinematic verve, the Hughes brothers (Menace II Society, From Hell), directing their first film in eight years, bog down every scene in between with arty compositions (Denzel's seen from every conceivable angle), nonexistent character development, and a complete lack of thematic logic or imagination. It's all so solemn and serious, but without any meaning or context. Eli's a badass with a Bible. That's pretty much all you need to know (aside from the ridiculous twist at the end). The bad guys are, well, bad guys. The virtues of faith, the message of the Bible, are left unspoken and unexamined. Instead, the good book becomes a red herring of sorts, something to be coveted but never really understood. Which would all be fine if the movie didn't pretend that its hero was righteous and divinely protected, gifted with uncanny abilities. Playing coy with its religious underpinnings, and sold as a comic book action flick, The Book of Eli is actually guilty of the very thing it condemns Oldman's Carnegie of: using religion to deliver an empty, amoral, bloodthirsty message of blind faith.

Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

Tags:

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

November 25, 2020

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2020 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation