Tackles Issues, but Bores Viewer

Child kidnapping. Race relations. Mental illness. Any one of these topics by themselves could be an excellent source for a gripping drama. Just think of what you could do if all three were incorporated into one movie? Add two lead actors known for their intense portrayals, and you could really stack the deck for excellence. It’s got to be a sure thing, right? Nope. Instead, it’s Freedomland, a mish-mash of attempted drama that tries hard to do it all, but can’t do anything right.

Catatonic mom Brenda Martin (Julianne Moore) stumbles into a hospital with blood on her hands. She is interviewed by Detective Lorenzo Council (Samuel L. Jackson), a cop in charge of the projects Brenda lives in. She tells him she was carjacked and thrown from the car, while her four-year-old son remained inside. The police react strongly to Brenda’s story, locking down the entire neighboorhood in an attempt to find the child. Tensions run high as the all black neighborhood becomes suffocated by the all white police force. Will things explode before Brenda’s son can be found?

This is an odd movie, and I don’t mean that as a complement. We have tense subject matter with no tension. “Character driven” speeches are not believable and run on too long. The most critical point in the story is so mishandled that we are not sure it just happened or why it just happened (other than “the script said so”). The editor cuts way too fast. The title even makes little sense in relation to the rest of the film.

Julianne Moore (The Forgotten) is a good actress, but this was a real waste of her talent. I’m sure it was a draining experience, as she spends the entire film looking like hell and crying, or looking as if she is about to cry. The problem is that her character has no arc. She doesn’t change. She spends the whole movie playing this weepy, screwed up woman and we wonder why we are watching her, or why we should care. In the end, we don’t.

I’m starting to think Samuel L. Jackson (The Man) is a personality and not an actor, picking scripts with the largest dollar sign attached. The guy plays the same character every time, and it’s wearing thin. Here again, he plays does his tough guy schtick, swearing a lot and offering words of wisdom to those not as wise as he. This would be forgivable in a better movie, but here, it’s just more of the same.

The bottom line is that Freedomland is just not very interesting on any level. The studio may have had the same feeling. Why else dump a big budget drama with name actors in the dead zone known as February? It doesn’t take a police detective to figure this one out.