The end of the world seems to be a popular theme these days. With the rotten economy, the never-ending wars and the general fear of change, Hollywood must feel a need to sensitize the masses with “worse case scenario” programming. First there was 2012, then The Road and now, arguably the best of the bunch, The Book of Eli.

Box office super trooper, Denzel Washington (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) turns action warrior for his latest film, The Book of Eli, a strange yet recognizable tale of a man on a mission. Eli (Washington) travels solo, through the devastated dregs of a once-thriving America, to save the last copy of the Bible.

Like David Carradine in the 1970s television show Kung Fu, Washington’s Eli is as peaceful as a monk, when he isn’t beating up the bad guys. Most every segment of The Book of Eli is a montage of familiarity – a reminder of films we know, and sometimes love.

Washington owns Eli, and is ruggedly handsome, cool and cunning as a man headed West. For most of the journey, it is unclear why Eli must head West, and it doesn’t matter because travel in any direction looks bleak.

Along the way Eli encounters a host of low-life survivors of the apocalyptic event that demolished the earth we know today. Few characters in the film have knowledge of “before,” which evidently means “before the world was destroyed and reincarnated into a super hell.” Now the goal of the average human being is to attempt to survive the mayhem in this new land where people rob, rape, kill and eat each other for folly. Why, in these types of films, do only the indecent survive?

Eli happens upon a town full of people who look like extras in the film Escape from New York, only dustier, and he has a showdown with several troublemakers. 

Eli’s battle weapons consist mainly of large, heavy, dangerous-looking machetes. Eli battles groups of enemies with the grace and ease of a black belt in karate, making the action scenes in The Book of Eli fast, exciting and at times graphic and gory.

Carnegie, played wickedly by Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight), is the authority in the shanty town because of his access to water and thus, wealth. Beautiful and talented Jennifer Beals (The L Word) barely uses her theatrical skill sets as Claudia, Carnegie’s blind, battered and abused female companion. Carnegie’s makeshift army, a group of Neanderthal, illiterate, hoods for hire, are charged to search for a book (and whatever else they can take from the unsuspecting) that Carnegie believes he must possess in order to influence those who have survived. Claudia’s daughter, Solara (Mila Kunis, Extract), is amazed with Eli and believes following him is the best way to escape her putrid life as one of Carnegie’s minions.

The film has a dark hue, like most Batman films. One too many attempted rapes and assault scenes serve up a Last House on the Left type evil, but not as graphic. And fortunately, The Book of Eli has a noble goal: survival for Eli, Solara and the Bible.

The film is more mysterious than preachy, and action packed in a quirky way. With a strong, moralistic finish, The Book of Eli is a solid action adventure, and worth the price of admission. But this is not to be mistaken as entertainment for the family or children, just because the Bible is the book in question. Denzel Washington fans should prepare to enjoy this character, the quest and warfare for The Book of Eli is a larger- than-life made for the big screen affair.  Amen.

 

Jamise Grace Liddell is a guest movie reviewer for the Ahwatukee Foothills News.

 

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