A review of ďFreedomlandĒ by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: R for language and violence

Run Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

 

 

Julianne Moore intermittently lights up the screen in this herky-jerky thriller that never finds its footing.

Samuel L. Jackson plays it street-smart as hipper-than-thou beat cop Lorenzo Council, patrolling the gritty New Jersey Armstrong Project like his life depended on it. All is status quo until Lorenzo happens upon a bloody, hysterical female (Moore as Brenda Martin) who has staggered into the ER of the Dempsey Medical Center, babbling about a dark night, a surprise car-jacking, and an unknown black assailant.

Only after hours of interrogation does Brenda confess that her precious four-year old son Cody was asleep in the back of the stolen car. A red flag for Lorenzo as Brenda seems terribly confused and the pieces just donít fit.

Enter Friends of Kent, a group of activist moms (led by a humorless Edie Falco) who search for missing children. Their involvement lends a gratuitous yet potentially intriguing tangent as they dig for clues as to Codyís whereabouts. A natural assumption that the kidnapper is a local from the projects pushes the racial tension to its limits.

Sounds like the stuff of a chewy mystery and with Moore in the driverís seat as a fringe lunatic its narrative tension at its best. She tows a fine line between sanity and madness, offering up a wickedly artful question mark that could and should be played out till the bitter end.

But shady stereotypes, conventional images and a surplus of dangling tangents stall the action while the film hastily tries to redeem itself with a tenuous connection to a shifty area known as Freedomland, where generations of neglected, abused and forgotten children have left their ghostly mark.

Climactic lecture on child-rearing (courtesy of Jacksonís relentless over-play) and plotís stubborn insistence on preaching racial inequity is the final straw.