Movie Reviews: Freedomland




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     Columbia Pictures
     Freedomland is based on Richard Price’s novel about the investigation of a carjacking in an improvised neighborhood in New Jersey.
     Samuel L. Jackson, Julianne Moore, Edith Falco, Ron Eldard, William Forsythe, Anthony Mackie, Aunjanue Ellis
Bottom Line:

Samantha Ofole-Prince

Samuel Jackson has played numerous law enforcers in his lucrative 30-year movie career, and in Freedomland he’s Detective Lorenzo Council, a veteran police officer known on a first name basis in the Armstrong projects, an inner city neighborhood he patrols. Julianne Moore (The Hours) plays Brenda Martin, a preschool provider in the community. When she turns up disheveled and bloodied at the local Dempsy Memorial Hospital recounting a tale of carjacking in Armstrong, officers are forced to barricade the housing project in an attempt to find the perpetrator. However, as Detective Council interrogates Martin, it soon becomes apparent her story is badly flawed and the race to find the carjacker ignites long simmering racial tensions in the city.

Freedomland takes place in two Northern New Jersey towns; Dempsy, a predominantly African-America working class inner city community, and Gannon a largely white blue-collar suburb (settings previously used in the movie Clockers – another Richard Price novel). Despite a great plot and premise, this flick is riddled with too many potholes to make it effective. It initially unravels a nice web of mystery, which is clearly not stitched through effectively resulting in the movie completely loosing steam midway. Certain scenes and events don’t add up; when Martin informs Council, several hours into his interrogation that her four-year son Cody was in the car he never questions why this admission came so late. Instead he has a mini asthma attack, drives her home, checks out the closets, rooms and fridge and then stations an officer outside her place. When the crime is eventually solved there is no mention of where or what happened to car and viewers are left to piece together the many questions, which arise as this movie floats between a rendition of the Los Angeles race riots and a tale of parental rights and responsibilities – clearly no correlation. With the attire and attitude clearly reminiscent of his role in the movie Shaft, Council can’t seem to digest bad news easily without reaching for his inhaler – yet, he is a hardened detective. Then there’s his son who is severing a two year term in prison for armed robbery whom he visits once a week – how this pertains to the entire movie is never clarified.

A poor execution of a great storyline, Freedomland has the potential to be better that it is. There is plenty of solid acting as expected from actors Jackson, Moore, Mackie and Ellis, which alone cannot save a flick that suffers from a severe shortage of credibility. It tries too hard to be a dramatic tear jerker, but fails miserably in the process.



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