Denzel Washington only glimpse of light in 'The Book of Eli'

Denzel Washington only glimpse of light in 'The Book of Eli'


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I think we can all agree the Bible is missing some crucial elements: mutant cannibalism, chainsaw-wielding hijackers and Denzel Washington. So, thank God for "The Book of Eli," the latest comedy goldmine from the makers of "Menace II Society." Finally setting the record straight on whether killing is Kosher, the Hughes brothers shake up both the Old Testament and the apocalyptic film genre as a whole.

One of the few survivors of a sun-related global catastrophe, Eli (Denzel Washington) has been hiking west for 30 years with faith as his only guide. As a former K-Mart employee, he is quite comfortable in the hostile environment Earth has become, littered with cannibals, thieves and other former Blue Light Special regulars. Eli slices and dices his way across country, confiding in his Bible for moral support and his iPod for late night love-jam fantasies.

Desperately in need of water, (and a pivotal iPod charge,) Eli stumbles through a biker camp and manages to slaughter an entire gang within minutes. The local crime boss, Carnegie (Gary Oldman in his best Gene Hackman impression), soon finds out Eli possesses the most powerful weapon imaginable, the last Bible on Earth, and attempts to seize the book for his evil bidding. Sprinkle in some pithy dialogue, a few massacred henchmen and a seemingly immortal protagonist, giving you: every mindless action movie ever made?

Not exactly. Eli is a deeply religious character, but he isn't the sneaky Bible-beater we're used to. He doesn't try to trick you toward salvation with a barbecue that turns out to be a Christ-recruitment, and he won't be handing you a rapture pamphlet from his Jesus-fish satchel bag. He doesn't care to spread the word whatsoever. He isn't a Good Samaritan. He doesn't turn the other cheek. He decapitates his enemies, eats cats, ignores rapes and engages in the unholy terror that is "contemporary music." It all makes you feel a whole lot better about only showing up to church on Easter.

But it is this character, (and a flash-bang of an ending,) which makes "The Book of Eli" worth watching. When tremendous moments of tragedy occur, the masses turn to their assortment of gods for guidance. Washington plays the lead with his usual strength, providing an intriguing study of the battle between morality and survival. And somewhere between these two walks of life are giant man-eating biker-boars that see your mouth-hole as a tempting opportunity for love.

The supporting cast is less impressive.

Gary Oldman barks his way through the typical villain role but at least holds up his end of the power balance.

The biggest catastrophe has nothing to do with earth-shattering sun-destruction, but rather Mila Kunis's performance. With all the prowess of a drowning mannequin, Kunis appears to be modeling for a sunglasses commercial, styling and profiling through lackluster scenes.

Much like a throw pillow, placed on beds for aesthetic attention, she should be removed when activities are taking place. Among these activities, acting while standing around and looking wicked hot is still encouraged.

Just as Seth Rogen's "Observe and Report" accidentally followed in the kid-friendly footsteps of "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," this could have easily become a mega-sequel to "The Road."

The recycling of apocalyptic movie material is brutally obvious but bearable. Heed only this one bit of advice: The sheer ridiculousness of the 10-minute ending is worth the disgusting impossibility of the two hours that came before it.

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