|Darren Khan, Observer Entertainment Writer |
Friday, April 07, 2006
|A scene from Freedomland|
Like recent Best Picture Oscar winner, Crash (now on cable television) Freedomland, has racism as its main theme. It begins with the image of Brenda Martin (Julianne Moore), palms were bloody and torn, walking, eventually, into a hospital.
In another scene, we see Detective Lorenzo Council (the ubiquitous Samuel L Jackson) - the self-proclaimed 'King of the Jungle', the jungle being the Armstrong inner-city housing project - trying to assert his assumed role while attempting to get a young man to show up for court and promising to deal with a domestic abuse situation(he forgets the latter after getting called to the said hospital).
Here lies one of the problems with Freedomland. There are so may subplots introduced that keeping track is an instance of foolhardiness. There is an asthma attack, an adrenaline shot and a scene in which the two leads seem destined to go into areas unexpected, all of which go absolutely nowhere. Throughout this, the alleged carjacking of the victim's four-year-old son, allegedly by a young black male, leads to a depressed black community being placed under lockdown by white cops and racial hatred comes to the fore.
The clear answers in Freedomland are a tad too clear and the rest is lost in the murk where justification allegedly lies.
Moore as the distraught and unbalanced mother, who happens to be a former drug addict, is an unmade-up marvel (there are, by necessity, shades of her character in The Missing but these are quickly forgotten) and Jackson is very good as a veteran cop with delusions of control and grandeur in his own little corner of the world.
It was nice to see Edie Falco of The Sopranos fame off the small screen. As Karen Colluci, the leader of the 'Friends of Kent,' (an organisation which helps to find lost children), she shares in what amounts to the pivotal scene of the film, an intense, well-crafted sequence which begs repeated watching.
Based on the novel of the same name by Richard Price, who also wrote Clockers (filmed by Spike Lee), the film's racial tension quotient comes therefore as no surprise. Director Joe Roth seemed unsure whether he was doing a whodunit thriller or social commentary. Even so, the film is a must-see, not just for the performances of Jackson and Moore, but because it's one of the few you are likely to watch this year which does not bow to the cookie-cutter god, taking you to the dark recesses of the soul, a place everyone should visit at least once.