**** (out of 5)
February 17, 2006
Samuel L. Jackson as LORENZO COUNCIL
Julianne Moore as BRENDA MARTIN
Edie Falco as KAREN COLLUCCI
Ron Eldard as DANNY MARTIN
William Forsythe as BOYLE
Studio: Revolution Studios
Directed by: Joe Roth
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
“Freedomland” is a victim of its own brilliance. That, and marketing.
By simply watching the marketing and press for “Freedomland,” you might expect something that’s a little more like the standard cop drama. On the surface, the film is about a car-jacking that involves a kidnapping. We’re presented with a familiar formula: Samuel L. Jackson as the edgy detective and Julianne Moore as the worried mother.
However, “Freedomland” is not at all what it seems.
Much of the marketing of this film suggests that it will be about chasing down a kidnapper. However, it becomes more about the racial tensions of a city. In many ways, the kidnapping story takes a back seat, and even the main characters are suppressed for the greater message.
There are aspects to plot that most people will recognize from the news stories of recent years. I won’t disclose which exact stories they are, as that would give away some surprises, but they are some of the more twisted ones you might remember.
Normally, I’m not a huge fan of the “Inspired by True Events” label. I find that to be too much of an underhanded draw. So much is changed in these true events that it’s more fiction than fact. However, this is very appropriate for “Freedomland.” Staying too close to the true events would have left the film with a weak made-for-TV feel. Instead, the film broadens it’s focus and touches on some unsavory truths of the human experience.
The movie opens with Brenda Martin (Julianne Moore), who staggers into a hospital to tell the police her car has been hijacked. When Detective Lorenzo Council (Samuel L. Jackson) arrives, he learns that her son was in the car when it was taken. This leads to a massive manhunt in the ghetto for the suspect.
To make things worse, Brenda has a brother in the police force, which causes him to come down hard on the neighborhood. Here is where the racial tensions start. Detective Danny Martin (Ron Eldard) locks down the neighborhood, against the orders of Detective Council, who is normally assigned to that beat. The citizens in the neighborhood scream racism, pointing out the fact that there have been murders in the area before, but they’ve never seen the police presence that happens when a white boy goes missing.
And here is where the genius of “Freedomland” comes in. Unlike preachy, heavy-handed movies like “Crash,” this movie reveals truths underneath the accusations. For example, the police weren’t there in force because a white child went missing. The police were there in force because the nephew of a cop went missing.
Each time the movie opens up a racial can of worms, things get more complicated. Call it “covert racism” but it’s deeper and far more complex that a line of rednecks in KKK hoods. That’s the realities of life. That’s what makes the film so real. Just because someone is crying racism doesn’t mean that’s the complete truth.
I don’t know if this veiled presentation was intentional by the filmmakers. What I got out of the movie may have emerged in my own mind. However, I felt it gave a terrifying look into the tensions of humanity.
The realities of the story are like those of real life. They’re complicated. Pardon the pun, but nothing is ever so black and white. This knowledge of the complexities of human relationships doesn’t take away the pain, and it won’t make a oppressed group any less bitter, but it is refreshing to see someone paint this picture in Hollywood today.