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Movie Review of The Book of Eli, Starring Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis

The Book of Eli: Not Worth a Read

Denzel Washington has the sort of actor intensity needed to play an apocalyptic superhero, and The Book of Eli positions him as such. Dressed in shades with a machete at his back, he swiftly slices at his enemies while showing no expression or sign of sweat. He's like a Bourne for the new dark ages: precise, robotic, and killing in order to survive after a war that destroys most of the earth (and its inhabitants).

You're never sure when Washington is going to throw a man to the floor or smash a head against a counter, which fills the storyline with surprise jumps and gives it a degree of intrigue — just who is this guy? But despite such entertainment value, the tale wavers on the side of ridiculous when it should be gripping. To hear why,

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The movie centers on Washington's character, a man without a name for a good 75 percent of the script (spoiler: it's Eli). Armed with an arsenal of weapons, his iPod, and a Bible that he reads and wraps in cloth every night, Eli is making his way to the West. His mission is thrown off course, however, when he encounters a town in the middle of the debris, its mayor of sorts named Carnegie (Gary Oldman), and a young woman, Solara (Mila Kunis). Ironically enough, Carnegie is on a fervent search for a Bible, and he'll basically do anything to get it out of Eli's grasp.

Unlike The Road, which presented a believable world after devastation, Eli is more like its Hollywood-ized cousin. The setting is nearly identical — desolate homes, street gangs, a gray backdrop — but the script and its characters are like a glamorized interpretation, from cartoonish thugs to Kunis's skinny jeans (since when did apocalypse duds look like modern-day LA?).

Even the action resembles Saturday Night Live goofs like severed hands squirting blood. Pair this with slow-moving camera shots for a music video quality, and the plot — which is attempting a social and religious message — gets mired in silliness.

The film isn't totally a lost cause, however. It does deliver a clever twist at the end, except by that point, the script is too contrived for the audience to truly care. For most of it, I just felt bored — that is, when I wasn't rolling my eyes.


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Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.

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