Stay Out of Freedomland

by Alan Rapp on February 17, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Sometimes a movie is so awful you need a shower to get clean.  Freedomland is just such a movie.  One of the worst films of 2006 and the most vile and disheartening films I’ve seen in quite some time.  I still can’t believe I saw what I saw or that parents with small children allowed them to view this violent, distasteful, and heartless film.  Whatever you do this weekend keep you and yours out of Freedomland.

Negative Stars

The trailer for Freedomland tells about a kidnapped child whose been taken by some evil men to the worst part of the city where they are doing all kinds of offensive and malicious things to him and only Samuel L. Jackson can save the day.  Well, turns out that’s not really what the film is about.  The film is about race relations between the inner (black) city and the surrounding (white) suburb that boils over when a mother says a black man has stolen her child.  The result is a chaotic mess.  And seriously folks after this can’t we take Julianne Moore’s movie mother license away from her; it seems like every movie she’s in a kid of hers is killed or is a pornstar or doesn’t exist or has been abducted by aliens or whatever.  Just make it stop.

Brenda Moore (Julianne Moore) shows up at the hospital hurt and bleeding.  She tells police detective Lorenzo Council (Samuel L. Jackson) that her car has been stolen by a young black man and her four year-old son was asleep in the backseat.  The issue quickly becomes highly pressurized and isn’t helped by the fact that Brenda’s brother (Ron Eldard) is a cop.  The black community is quardened off and you know soon or later things are going to over boil and spill out into a full riot.

Lorenzo is skeptical about Moore’s story and the holes she isn’t able or willing to fill in and believes she knows more than she is telling him.  There are also other stories involving Lorenzo’s incarcerated son, a black man who didn’t make his court date, a friend of Lorenzo’s who has an abusive boyfriend, city politics, and more.  None however are as interesting as watching paint dry.

For a movie to include an issue like the abduction and possible murder of a child it better make it important and emotionally accessible to the audience.  This film does neither.  From the very first time we see Brenda she is lying and hiding things from the police and so as the only character in the film with a connection to the child (Eldard’s character is only present to stir the pot) we never get a feel for the actual victim, Cody (Marlon Sherman).

Part of the problem is the movie is much more interested in the effects of the kidnapping on the city, in a superficial way, rather than the child himself.  Cody is basically only a plot device to get things rolling and that is more than just bad writing; it’s wrong.  Nor does the film earn the riot and the scenes of the white cops in full riot gear beating young black men, women and children within inches of their lives.  Nor after the story of Cody is concluded does the film take any kind of look at the action of those involved or the consequences of their actions.  That’s more than just wrong folks; it’s irresponsible.

The movie’s only interesting character is Karen Collucci (Edie Falco) a mother whose son was kidnapped ten years ago and now helps run a volunteer organization of parents who look for missing children.  Falco gives the film a slight thread of credibility but her character and story are gobbled up and wasted by the rest of the film.

The film never earns the race riot it so badly wants to put on screen and so orgasmically happy to show, nor does it ever make Cody real enough to make the audience have any emotional stake in the film.  For a film to take on such topics as kidnapping, murder of children, race riots, and police beating down African Americans in such a loose, insincere, disrespectful, and disingenuous way made me want to vomit.  The best thing about Freedomland was when the closing credits finally rolled.

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