Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

"Freedomland attempts to touch as many storytelling bases... as possible and misses the respective targets by miles."

This is a frustrating film, almost entirely without dramatic cohesion. That is to say, we see all the elements for a solid, entertaining police procedural, without pedalling into cliché, and yet it completely lacks the connective tissue to bring the components together in a human fashion. Like its secondary character, it rambles unsympathetically, doesn't know when to shut up and conceals information until it's time to drive the plot forward. While not a terrible film, Freedomland is definitely a disappointment, given the calibre of talent involved.

Lorenzo Council (Samuel L Jackson) is a detective, assigned to investigate the carjacking/kidnapping case of Brenda Martin (Julianne Moore) and her four-year old son in a fictional black district of New Jersey. Brenda turns up at the hospital with badly bleeding, injured hands. The cops decide to hunt down the guilty party by containing the neighbourhood until the kidnapper is found, or someone comes forward to reveal the truth.

Copy picture

Director Joe Roth attemps an interesting visual style at the expense of the drama. Indeed, he tries to out-trick Se7en with its jump-cut/whiteout/grungy-title-card sequence, but fails to get us into the mindset, however cynical and world-weary it may seem.

The triple-dynamite cast of Jackson, Moore and Edie Falco (best known for The Sopranos) is wasted on a film that doesn't know what it wants. They give good, often risk-taking performances, particularly Jackson, who openly portrays a flawed human being, driven by his own guilt and demons. He convinces utterly as a man seeking redemption through his work, and atoning for earlier sins. Moore also shines, in spite of the limitations of Richard Price's script, as an often unsympathetic mother.

The film's strongest moments involve Falco, as the self-appointed leader of a band of concerned parents, who systematically scour the city for lost, often murdered, children. Her character is determined, focussed and, yes, likable!

Freedomland attempts to touch as many storytelling bases - hard-hitting drama, police procedural, psychological mystery, racial potboiler - as possible and misses the respective targets by miles. What results is an overwrought melodrama of the weakest kind, even delving into half-baked spirituality and faith at the mid-point.

The story, as presented, feels as though it has congealed over time and been cut for length by an inexperienced editor. Plot threads dangle loosely, when excision would tighten it up and involve us more. Characters, like Brenda's cop-brother (Ron Eldard), are cast aside when no longer required.

Roth allows his film to meander at the finale - when a fade to black would be more appropriate and dramatically satisfying.

Reviewed on: 28 Apr 2006
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A kidnapping in Jersey uncovers personal demons.
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Director: Joe Roth

Writer: Richard Price, based on the novel by Richard Price

Starring: Samuel L Jackson, Julianne Moore, Edie Falco, Ron Eldard, William Forsythe, Aunjanue Ellis, Anthony Mackie

Year: 2006

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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