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5 reviews, 34 user ratings

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Deja Vu (2006)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Not the Henry Jaglom Film But Just As Lousy"
2 stars

Look, I have been going to movies long enough to realize that one does not attend an offering from director Tony Scott or producer Jerry Bruckheimer looking for elegance, good taste and a respect for the dignity and sanctity of life. After all, Scott is the guy who opened “The Last Boy Scout” with a drugged-up football player pulling out a gun and killing a couple of opposing players in the middle of a play in order to score a necessary goal and Bruckheimer’s past efforts have included the bombing of Pearl Harbor as the background for a soppy love story and the destruction of Paris and New York via asteroids as throwaway moments in a film (“Armageddon”) that never referred to them again during the rest of the story. And yet, the opening scene of their latest collaboration, “Deja Vu,” is so gauche, tasteless and beyond the pale in its desire to exploit familiar images of human misery for a mere film that it would leave a bad taste in the mouth even if it proved to be the prelude to a masterpiece on the level of “The Passion of Joan of Arc,” let alone a fenderheaded action thriller that plays at time like “The Lake House” with a significantly higher body count.

Set in New Orleans, the film opens on a Fat Tuesday celebration aboard a ferry that appears to be populated with nothing but Navy sailors on shore leave and seven-year-old children. Everyone is cheerful and happy and frolicking without a care in the world. This goes on for several minutes until the calm is shattered by a cataclysmic explosion. We are then treated to images of screaming kids, badly burned victims plunging into the water, stunned relatives standing ashore waiting to see if their loved ones are alive or dead and bodies–543 dead, we are soon told. Just in case there was someone out there who didn’t quite get the implications, we are even treated to the image of a bombed-out school bus being hauled out of the drink. On a technical level, the sequence is admittedly impressive but on an emotional level, the way that it traffics in images suggesting 9/11, Oklahoma City and Hurricane Katrina in order to get a rise out of viewers is close to obscene. I’m not trying to be sensitive here but isn’t there any other way that Scott, Bruckheimer and writers Bill Marsilii & Terry Rossio could have devised to kick off what is otherwise a silly popcorn movie than with a sequence like this?

Anyway, hunky ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) arrives on the scene to investigate and discovers enough evidence to suggest that the explosion was no accident but a deliberate bombing. He also discovers the body of a woman, Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton) near the scene who doesn’t appear to be a victim of the bombing and when he goes to her house to investigate, he is stunned to discover his voice on a message on her answering machine. Putting two and two together, Doug figures out that Claire must have somehow crossed paths with the bomber and was killed as a result. While pursuing this lead, Doug hooks up with an FBI task force, led by Agent Pryzwara (Val Kilmer), that has apparently invented a computer program that allows them to somehow fold time so that they can see exactly four days into the past so that they can see the crimes as they happen in order to track down the guilty parties. Yes, this is all explained with a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo but I must say that it is perhaps the most ludicrous bit of technical exposition in a Scott-Bruckheimer joint since Tom Cruise explained the concept of drifting to Nicole Kidman by using sugar packet on her bare leg in “Days of Thunder.”

Minor Spoiler Alert for anyone who still cares at this point for the duration of the paragraph. Despite some hiccups, the system works and the bomber, paramilitary psycho Carroll Oerstadt (Jim Caviezel), is apprehended. However, Doug has become increasingly obsessed with Claire–possibly because of her tendency to spend much of her downtime in her underwear–and the idea of somehow being able to use his knowledge of what will happen to her in order to save her. This would seem to be impossible–although the machine can transport matter, the amount of energy needed to send even the smallest item would make sending a human being a complete impossibility. Well, that is what we are told repeatedly until the moment comes for the plot turn at the end of the second act and suddenly, Doug learns that it might indeed be possible to have himself sent back in order to both save Claire and stop the bombing. Whether he does or not is something I will leave for you to discover, along with whether he winds up destroying the very fabric of the time-space continuum in the process. (Somehow, I suspect you already know the answers to both questions.)

I realize that when dealing with stories involving time travel and the like, one needs to take them with several grains of salt but “Deja Vu” so thoroughly trashes its own tentative levels of plausibility that you get the sense that the writers just kept adding scenes without ever trying to make them fit in with the stuff that they have already established. At times, I began suspecting that “Donnie Darko” creator Richard Kelly may have done a deliberately half-assed rewrite of the time-travel stuff as revenge for what Scott did to his “Domino” screenplay. Scott tries to cover up these flaws in the only way that he knows how–he tells the story using his standard hyper-aggressive visual style in the hopes that no one will notice all of the plot holes.

Take the sudden discovery that Doug can travel back into time despite everything that we have been told up until that point–this revelation feels as if it has been clumsily shoehorned in once someone realized that if they stuck with the premise that had already been set up, it would mean that Denzel Washington wouldn’t have been able to personally save the girl, stop the bad guy and save the day. A smarter movie would have dealt with that and tried to figure out a way for the character to do those things from his future vantage point but while this film may be called many things, a “smarter movie” is not one of them. Even more infuriating is an off-hand line of dialogue that suggests that the Caviezel character is not unfamiliar with the top-secret time-folding technology. Unfortunately, this potentially provocative plot concept is abandoned almost immediately, a move so frustrating that you wonder why it was included in the first place.

“Deja Vu” marks Denzel Washington’s third collaboration with Tony Scott–the previous ones being “Crimson Tide” and “Man On Fire”–but he is given so little of substance to do here that the mystery of why he chose the re-up outweighs the various mysteries seen in the film. Those earlier films weren’t exactly chock-full of profound drama and fully-drawn characters but the roles he had at least had a little bit of substance for him to sink his teeth into. Here, he is stuck playing a cipher of a character who simply exists to be jerked around by the goofball plot machinations. Relative newcomer Paula Patton will be recognized by the few of you who caught her in “Idlewild” but once again, she hasn’t been asked to do much more of anything else than run fast, die young and leave an extremely good-looking corpse. Jim Caviezel, in a definite change-of-pace from his work as Jesus, is relatively interesting in the role of the bomber but you get the sense that most of the material involving his character was left on a cutting-room floor somewhere. The actor who comes off best here is Val Kilmer, who gets a lot of laughs because he goes through his paces with an attitude that suggests that even he realizes just how absurd the proceedings are. In the context of the story proper, this performance may not “work” but it is admittedly fresh and entertaining. The rest of “Deja Vu,” once you get past the appalling opening sequence and the trippy surface elements, is just another serving of the same old junk

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15282&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/21/06 23:59:14
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User Comments

5/19/18 Anne a waste-after less than an hour I stopped watching it 2 stars
12/28/17 morris campbell silly sci -fi fun 4 stars
2/25/14 Uohllsry A's games aren't available to almost any object can become used to write a little self-cons 3 stars
7/03/09 MP Bartley Scott tones his ADD to good effect. A snappy, enjoyable thriller. 4 stars
2/12/09 R.W. Welch Cop-out ending. Otherwise okay. 3 stars
7/08/08 Totir Alexandru I really enjoyed this movie. It has an interesting plot with a lil bit of SciFi. 4 stars
6/28/08 John Millheim Great action, exciting, Denzel did a great job 5 stars
5/11/08 Lilac Interesting and thought-provoking, love watching Denzel, many holes in logic. 4 stars
1/04/08 mr.mike CSI+Time Tunnel+Back to the Future+Magnificent Obsession+........ 4 stars
7/21/07 ben dover brilliant loved it 5 stars
7/17/07 JP Alexander A terrorist act and no muslim in sight, yea right. 1 stars
7/07/07 Steve Newman Cant believe the comments - most of them are wrong!!!! Film was awesome 5 stars
6/27/07 gr117 Meh... 3 stars
6/27/07 Matt Idiotic story but Denzel helps to make it watchable fun 3 stars
5/14/07 TreeTiger Unbelievably unbelievable! A freshly made hot poo from the Denzel school of egotripping... 1 stars
4/24/07 action movie fan exciting sci/fi crime thriller-not overdirected as scott,s past films have been 4 stars
2/13/07 Barb Smith awesome, engaging, kept me on the edge of my seat! 5 stars
2/05/07 William Goss Once you swallow the story, surprisingly entertaining and fresh actioner. Denzel grounds it 4 stars
1/09/07 rocky Once I decided to just go with the preposterous storyline, it kicked ass 4 stars
1/03/07 james great movies: Denzel is the best actor I've seen in years 5 stars
12/23/06 eric appleby I've never seen a man go to so much effort to sleep with someone. Achingly awful. 2 stars
12/20/06 Bitchflaps An entertaining synthesis of admittedly familiar ideas, you care about the characters. 4 stars
12/19/06 Quigley Denzel and Caviezel were the best part of this over-Hollywood-ized sci-fi fable. 3 stars
12/17/06 kes what was this 2 stars
12/15/06 Ole Man Bourbon Pretty entertaining--the outrageous plot gimmicks held my attention. 3 stars
12/14/06 liseyann This was an excellent movie: well-scripted and phenomenal acting 5 stars
12/11/06 Randy Light Great movie. The idea was purely original and I am a stupid asshole that no one likes. 5 stars
12/06/06 Doris Marsilii Awesome script 5 stars
12/03/06 matt this movie was just awesome i loved every minute 5 stars
11/28/06 marion loved it 5 stars
11/26/06 mlg It was entertaining 3 stars
11/24/06 malcolm denzel great as usual, pretty preposterous story 3 stars
11/22/06 Tiffany Losco Movie was really good. I like Denzel 5 stars
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  DVD: 24-Apr-2007



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