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Freedomland - Review

Julianne Moore and Samuel L Jackson in Freedomland

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 1.5 out of 5

FREEDOMLAND is the sort of film that merely serves to highlight the gulf that’s emerging between quality US TV cop shows and mainstream filmmaking.

It’s an endurance test likely to wear down the most patient of viewers thanks to a lamentable screenplay that annoys and frustrates in equal measure.

What’s worse, it hopelessly squanders the talents of both Samuel L Jackson and Julianne Moore, while simultaneously turning a best-selling page-turner into a pointless time-waster.

The film begins as distraught mother, Brenda Martin (Moore), staggers into a hospital with blood dripping from her hands, complaining of a car-jacking in the predominantly black neighbourhood of Dempsy, New Jersey.

With racial tensions already high between the residents of Dempsy and the neighbouring white working class Gannon, Detective Lorenzo (Jackson) is at pains to solve the case as quickly as possible.

But when it emerges that Brenda’s four-year-old son was also in the car and has subsequently been abducted, Lorenzo is faced with a desperate race against time and a mother who seems to be holding back on the truth.

It’s only through the involvement of a volunteer group that specialises in searching for missing children, led by Edie Falco’s bereaved mother, that any progress is made at all.

Freedomland has been adapted for the big screen by Richard Price (who also wrote the novel) and boasts some undeniably impressive credentials.

But it’s so heavy-handed and clumsy that it rapidly loses its grip on viewers – especially since television shows such as NYPD Blue and CSI deal with similarly complex issues in far more compelling fashion in half the time.

Director Joe Roth’s film consistently offers questions it frequently takes forever to answer – such as why Brenda takes so long to reveal that her son was in the car in the first place, or why she was even in the black neighbourhood.

And it fails to utilise the talents of its performers with Moore, especially, failing to illicit any sympathy for her plight as the mother and Jackson providing a particularly ineffective police presence by seldom asking the questions he should be.

By the time the truth becomes clear audiences will probably have lost interest – only to be faced with a further half an hour of consequence.

The result is an extremely arduous journey that simply isn’t worth riding along with.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 113 minutes