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The Book of Eli is a Bit of a Cheat, But An OK Action Flick

The Book of Eli
Directed by Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes
Written by Gary Whitta
Warner Bros., 2010

The Hughes Brothers took a long break from features since their last one in 2001, the monumentally bad Jack the Ripper thriller From Hell.  They established themselves with Menace II Society and Dead Presidents in the nineties, but have essentially fallen off the map since then.

They return with yet another post-apocalyptic picture, something we’ve seen scores of in the past year and we’re not done yet, with stuff like Legion opening next weekend and The Crazies coming along after that.  We had 2012 and just last week, Daybreakers.  Yet again, we have another traveler on a mission going down a lonely road to some location that may or may not be their destiny, kind of like we saw recently in The Road.  The travesty that has overtaken mankind is not well-understood, but we assume it’s a nuclear cause.

Our hero is Eli (Denzel Washington), who has a higher calling to “go West.”  The road is fraught with outlaws known as “hijackers,” scrounging for food, may be cannibals, are totally rapists, and are looking for a very special book for their evil boss, Carnegie (Gary Oldman).  Eli’s travels take him to Carnegie’s town, where he looks to recharge his music player (I think it’s an iPod, could well be a Zune) and get water.  Eli is immediately accosted for being a stranger to these parts, and ends up in a showdown with tons of dudes surrounding him who have absolutely no chance against his trusty machete.  Carnegie is impressed, wants Eli to work for him, asks him to stay the night.

It is here Eli is introduced to Solara (Mila Kunis), who is curious about the traveler, and this interesting book he carries around with him, which just happens to be the Bible, which, wouldn’t you know it, is the exact book Carnegie is looking for.  Carnegie believes the Bible is a weapon, one that can be used to attract numerous followers who are weak-minded.  It’s not long before Carnegie finds out about it, and after another skirmish with a high body count, Eli is back on the road and back on his quest.  Solara follows, Carnegie sends his minions.

Solara and Eli enter into an uneasy friendship, with Solara trying to understand the book that Eli carries.  Eli is protective of the book, mistrustful.  Carnegie’s minions try to catch up to the badass Eli.  So it goes.

The movie ends up with a twist that is a bit of a cheat.  The filmmakers do a good job of laying a proper foundation for this twist, but along the way they blow some holes in it, and quite a bit of what we’ve seen would be impossible if we’re to swallow it.  Along the way, we’re treated to some decent action.  It’s always fun to see one guy take on a horde of bad guys with a cutting weapon, regardless of how ridiculous it might be.  There’s something comforting in its effortless implausibility.

The Book of Eli is far from great, but for January and against most movies, you can do worse.

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