A humorless and all-business Denzel Washington is Eli.
He lives in the U.S. after a great disaster, a super war of some kind caused the ozone to rip open. Everyone in the open and exposed got fried. The survivors stayed inside or underground and weren’t really all that lucky.
The war wiped out the population, and the chaos that ensued destroyed nation’s infrastructure. Roads are littered with rusty old cars, big chunks of freeway ramps are missing.
You get the picture.
For the survivors, food and water are scarce. Starvation means cannibalism. You’re never told, but there are hints that much of humanity hides in hovels while others survive in small towns run by war lords. Everyone is dirty, armed and dangerous.
On a mission from God, Eli carries a special book west. He has been heading that way for 30 years. A stop in a town run by the brutal Carnagie changes Eli’s destiny. The villain — for once nicely underplayed by Gary Oldman — has been killing people for years to try to find that book. The book has all the power.
Eli is no pushover and has highly honed killing skills. They impress Carnagie, who wants him to stay. Killing machines are a valuable commodity when you want to conquer what’s left of the country.
Then, he learns that Eli has the treasured book.
Menace II Society’s the Hughes Brothers (Albert and Allan) bleach all the pigment from their apocalyptic vision. Their production is dry and dusty. Waterless. Colorless. So is the script. And you know it’s coming. It is just a matter of time. Wait. Wait. Wait. Not too long into the production the words get uttered; words so cliche that they turn a stylish, well-done, well-acted production to commonplace, predictable mush.
The words: “In the time before…”
Gad. Then learning what “the time before” is comes at you in cliche chunks. By that time, the film is packed with characters as cliche as the dreaded line.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars
Rated R for violence, language, mature themes. It opens Friday, Jan. 15 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.