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Joe Roth
Samuel L. Jackson, Julianne Moore, Edie Falco, Ron Eldard, William Forsythe, Aunjanue Ellis, Anthony Mackie, LaTanya Richardson
Writing Credits:
Richard Price (novel and screenplay)

The Truth Is Hiding Where No One Dares To Look.

A disheveled woman named Brenda Martin (Moore) staggers into a New Jersey police station and tells detective Lorenzo Council (Jackson) that a black man stole her car, and her child was in the back seat. Council launches a search for the boy, while a reporter begins to wonder whether Brenda is hiding something.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$6.707 million on 2361 screens.
Domestic Gross
$12.512 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 5/30/2006

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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Freedomland (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 11, 2006)

Why do the money boys continue to allow Joe Roth to direct films? Oh, that’s right – he is one of the money boys! Roth is the president of Revolution Films, and I guess that allows him to hire himself despite his dismal track record as a moviemaker. 2001’s America’s Sweethearts offered minor entertainment, but 2004’s Christmas with the Kranks was a complete disaster.

For his follow-up to that holiday stinker, Roth directed 2006’s Freedomland. While not as bad as Kranks, Freedomland falters too much to be regarded as anything more than a lumbering disappointment.

Former drug abuser Brenda Martin (Julianne Moore) claims that someone car-jacked her and made off while her four-year-old son Cody slept in the back seat. This occurred in a poor, mostly African-American area of New Jersey, so the police crack down on what they see as a plethora of possible suspects. This raises claims of racism even though local detective Lorenzo Council (Samuel L. Jackson) is black.

The movie follows his investigation. Council doesn’t truly believe Brenda’s story, so he tries to find out what really happened to her. In the meantime, racial tensions fire and cause impediments as the white cops and the black residents seem itching to go after each other.

With its various themes and subtexts, Freedomland had all sorts of potential to be a good flick. Heck, even if it did nothing more than try to be a taut thriller, it could have succeeded. Unfortunately, the movie bites off way more than it can chew and collapses under the weight of its pretensions.

Call it the Crash school of filmmaking. The racial aspects of Freedomland play prominently in the proceedings but add up to exceedingly little. They feel like they exist mainly to goose the audience. We get all hyped up about this side of things but the movie lets us down without much pay off in the end. The flick’s a racial tease; it makes us all hot and bothered but never puts out.

That’s a shame, for the movie’s first act and maybe even its full opening half work pretty well. The tension of the situation draws us in, and we feel curious to see where things will go. In the real world, cases like this always end up with a mom who killed her kids. Would the flick take that route or would it fake us out with something different? That question and the manner in which the story unfolds keeps us interested and involved for an hour or so.

But then it all starts to slip away. For one, the movie becomes painfully chatty. This flick includes so many monologues that I wondered if Johnny Carson wrote it. Characters will grind the film to a halt so they can spew philosophies and other thoughts in these horribly long and tedious monologues. They almost never go anywhere, and they kill whatever dramatic momentum the movie boasts.

I suppose half a good movie is better than none, but since Freedomland drags and meanders during its concluding hour, it squanders any good will. The third act goes especially poorly. The movie ends well before the lights go up, and by the time the credits finally roll, we wish we’d left much earlier. A woman in the theater audience said it best: “I turned off my cell phone for that?”

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus D-

Freedomland appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Although I worried that the presence of both versions would harm the visuals, Freedomland actually looked very good.

Sharpness almost always was terrific. A slight amount of softness infused a few wide shots, but those instances remained minor. Overall, the flick seemed crisp and detailed. No issues connected to jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, but I noticed a bit of light edge enhancement at times. As for print flaws, these seemed absent.

Freedomland featured a slightly stylized palette at times. Actually, many of the hues looked fairly natural, but the movie occasionally went for more forced tones. The movie replicated these colors cleanly and accurately. Black levels were nicely deep and dense, and low-light shots came across as distinctive and well defined. Ultimately, while I felt Freedomland lacked the polish to merit an “A”-level grade, it still seemed strong enough to earn a “B+”.

Some similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Freedomland. On the positive side, the mix offered high quality sound. Speech consistently sounded natural and distinctive. Music was bright and dynamic, with clean highs and good range. Effects were reproduced nicely as well. They always seemed clear and accurate, and they showed nice bass when appropriate. Low-end came across as tight and bold.

As for the soundfield, it mostly stayed with atmospheric material. The score played a stronger role than usual, as it spread vividly around all five speakers. Effects usually restricted themselves to ambiance, but they did so in an involving manner. The smattering of more active scenes brought the track to life, and the package always created a good sense of place. This was a nice mix.

Perhaps because the movie made a mere $12 million, the DVD comes almost totally devoid of extras. Actually, I suspect this has to do with director Joe Roth; the DVDs for America’s Sweethearts and Christmas with the Kranks provide similarly light rosters of supplements.

For Freedomland, all we find are some Previews. The DVD opens with ads for Click, Friends With Money, and Underworld: Evolution. These also appear in the “Previews” domain along with trailers for Little Man, Marie Antoinette, Basic Instinct 2, The Boondocks, The Forgotten, The Missing, and SWAT. No ad for Freedomland shows up here.

Although the first half of Freedomland works pretty well, the movie takes a nosedive in its final hour. Dull monologues dominate and it starts to feel like the flick will never end. The DVD offers very good picture and audio but lacks extras. Skip this disappointing effort.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.8333 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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