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Overall Rating
3.75

Awesome34.72%
Worth A Look: 24.31%
Just Average: 26.39%
Pretty Crappy: 10.42%
Sucks: 4.17%

13 reviews, 66 user ratings


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21 Grams
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by Robert Flaxman

"Could have used more weight."
3 stars

The central message of 21 Grams appears to be that life goes on, a message ironically lost on its central characters for most of the movie. After a traffic accident that affects the three main characters, the story proceeds to a moment where they all come together to determine how they will find their way out of this other world into which they have wandered.

Sean Penn is Paul, a generally quiet, inward man, given a second chance at life when a heart transplant suddenly turns up. The heart is from Naomi Watts' husband, and Paul takes to following her around before finally making contact in rather awkward fashion. Penn is good here, though a far cry from the tough he played in Mystic River - the scene in which he tries to fake a murder is funny in spite of its overall character. He seems not to have any real sense of how to relate to other people, except perhaps to Watts, whom he begins to obsess over.

Watts plays Christina, a depressed, bitter woman who lost her husband and two young daughters in a hit-and-run accident. While Christina's loss cannot be minimized, her method of dealing with it is distinctly selfish - first she declines to press charges against the driver because it wouldn't bring her family back, but then later insists to Paul that the man needs to be killed.

The man in question is Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro), an ex-con who found religion in prison and now spreads the word everywhere he can - but his faith is tested, if not outright destroyed, by the car accident, as he wonders why God would have allowed it to happen.

Jordan is really the most likable character in the film. While Paul is borderline creepy and Christina a bit of a shrew, Jack feels strong, sincere guilt over what he has done. He turns himself in against the desires of his wife, and when a lawyer helps spring him early, he leaves his family to contemplate his crime. Though Del Toro will be pushed for supporting awards, Jack is really the anchor of the film, his moral compass centering director Alejandro González Iñárritu's questions about life and death.

Though the performances are strong - Watts is tear-jerking in the scene where Christina learns of her family's fate - and the atmosphere effective, 21 Grams has definite issues. First are the characterizations. As I noted above, two of the three characters are not particularly likable; in addition, none of the characters are especially consistent. All right, they're dealing with traumatic events, but only Jack seems to respond in a recognizably human way, and even his behavior feels rather exaggerated.

Another problem is the choice to shuffle the film's chronology, which feels like more of a gimmick than anything else. Aside from perhaps creating a little extra tension in some parts of the narrative, the time-switching - which is mostly random - doesn't seem to have any deliberate purpose. It could be said that this is the confusion of the limbo-like world manifesting itself on the viewer, but it hardly seems necessary and is more just distracting.

Iñárritu does a good job of setting up a world that somehow seems to exist between life and death, with people who feel they shouldn't or don't deserve to be alive. What he doesn't do is make those characters compelling enough or make the trip through the world a straightforward one. The end of the film is fairly satisfying, all things considered, as the characters have navigated this limbo and emerged from it in their own different ways, but the process of getting to that point from the setup was unnecessarily jumbled.

Though it can be emotionally complex and has a promising setup, 21 Grams devolves too much into screaming and gimmickry before finally pulling itself together. The first and last acts (narratively speaking) are solid, but it is in between that 21 Grams could have used, if you'll forgive the expression, a little more weight.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8348&reviewer=385
originally posted: 10/11/04 03:31:31
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User Comments

2/27/19 Courtney Love The sex scene between Sean Penn and Naomi Watts was filmed while her nipples were erect. 5 stars
12/28/17 morris campbell bleak & potent 4 stars
2/04/17 Aidan Butler Sean Penn character destroys logic of movie 3 stars
1/01/13 Davie bummer. 2 stars
11/25/10 Sia Shar one of great movies of the 2003 and the decade 5 stars
9/17/08 PAUL SHORTT CRUSHES ITS CHARACTERS UNDER ITS FOOT, THEN STEPS BACK & WANTS YOU TO LOOK AT THE MESS 1 stars
7/19/08 Shaun Wallner This movie was Awesome!! Loved It. 5 stars
12/21/07 Wendell O. Maness I love blood, want to drink it, love this movie 5 stars
12/05/06 andrew worst movie ever. boring and sux 1 stars
11/24/06 Charlene Javier Loved it as well 4 stars
6/24/06 MP Bartley Superb acting, but jumbled narrative is all veneer and no surface. 4 stars
4/12/06 anthonyuk superb and again sean penn shows his class 5 stars
11/21/05 Taylor Fladgate 4 Stars - but be sure to be ready to be depressed. Whoa. 4 stars
9/19/05 Indrid Cold Great use of a fractured narrative to spice up an otherwise ho-hum story. 5 stars
8/18/05 ES Broken time lines inmovie generally mean the director wasn't sure how to film it 3 stars
6/12/05 Agent Sands Plot order is as if PA dropped the script & had 2 shuffle it back together in a hurry. 4 stars
5/06/05 Vince Top notch cast and performances, editing seems random and as a result story is tedious 3 stars
4/09/05 K. Sear Nothing new but it delivers where other attempts fail. 4 stars
12/07/04 Orion Fascinating. More deeper that you think at first glance 5 stars
11/08/04 Matthew Wow..what an awesome movie! Naomi Watts rocks! 5 stars
9/02/04 Impey not too shaby 2 stars
8/28/04 capitalbliss Fantastic, I found the filming a little different but the movie is great!! 5 stars
8/11/04 kc finished the movie feeling...eh... 3 stars
7/31/04 Brad Gripping, great performances. 5 stars
7/16/04 Jim & Deborah incredible movie/fabulous directing and acting / "outside the box" so to speak. 5 stars
5/25/04 michele excellent! Del Toro's acting is hypnotic 5 stars
5/22/04 Monster W. Kung Good acting, but plot is tedious and the absurdly bleak and fractured approach don't help. 3 stars
5/16/04 elizaveta a really great out-of-order film. Sean Penn rocks, as ever. 5 stars
5/12/04  Shaun Rose Excellent movie with agreat cast, I reccomend to anybody who hasn't seen it 4 stars
4/22/04 Alex A good movie about life 5 stars
4/19/04 Phil M. Aficiando Mind jumbling pysche beater; great acting helps a lot, but.... 3 stars
4/06/04 A F Tried to hard to mess with the sequence 3 stars
4/04/04 Charlene Javier Proves that Amores Perros is no fluke! 5 stars
4/03/04 Vince Chan Finally, a non-linear movie that actually makes you THINK! 5 stars
3/31/04 The More You Know Like a challenge? Watch it - but be prepared! Josh G's take on it is helpful. 4 stars
3/27/04 Frank Lynch 21 Grams is a pretentious bore. 2 stars
3/24/04 Shelley Shea Sean Penn can do no wrong. 5 stars
3/24/04 Margie LOVED IT, LOVED IT!!! Naomi should have won the best actress oscar!!(I question the end) 5 stars
3/21/04 othree loved it, sadly, raw reminder of human natures +cast 4 stars
3/16/04 Holly Beeman I almost feel like it would have been more powerful in sequence, but he's got the tech! 4 stars
3/10/04 Matt Good performances but the story was just too slight to merit the style. 3 stars
2/27/04 Reini Urban +story, + cast, -camera 4 stars
2/26/04 Troy Butler Extremely emotional, ... amazing performances all round!!! TOP NOTCH!! 5 stars
1/29/04 Rapunzel Gladstone Poorly told story that would far and away be none too compelling if told well. 2 stars
1/27/04 marzio arigoni@rtsi.ch a punch in your stomach! Great performances, especially Watts and Del Toro, and editing 4 stars
1/26/04 Chloe Brody Not Sean's finest performance, but really powerful. Naomi deserves the Oscar! 4 stars
1/24/04 Smitty The most beautifully acted lousy movie I've ever seen 2 stars
1/22/04 Betty White Heavy, dark drama with grand performances. 4 stars
1/21/04 HAL You must think to understand this film and our thoughts are not linear. Fine film. 5 stars
1/20/04 Chronology The movie was based intense emotions and ideas, but is ruined by mixed chronology! 4 stars
1/20/04 Cheerleader who ran out of TP& has to wipe her ass with her pompoms Falls apart at uh, ending, or rather would if it had an ending. 2 stars
1/18/04 Gretchen Seitz "---" sucks! Since when is "no taste" a burnable in hell offense. 2 stars
1/18/04 the Grinch Typical movie you'd expect Sean Penn to be in...good script, but In The Bedroom it AINT 2 stars
1/17/04 john wonderful, great acting, camera technique, fine editing, beautiful work 5 stars
1/16/04 john bale Brilliant yet difficult gritty drama about Fate, great actors, grungy sets and camerawork 4 stars
1/11/04 KCobain Awful and depressing. Walked out after 45 minutes. 1 stars
1/02/04 Admiral Piett Sean Penn sucks donkey dick. 1 stars
12/31/03 --- Anyone who doesnt like this movie has no taste and should burn in hell 5 stars
12/29/03 ownerofdajoint if you like deep overlapping plots then you'll think this is a great movie;which it is 5 stars
12/19/03 AXE k 1 stars
12/14/03 Slo. Zombie This review just SUCKS !!! 21 grams AND Mystic river are two masterpieces of modern cinema! 5 stars
12/02/03 re A GREAT FILM 5 stars
11/30/03 Todd Stein A great film, interesting study of humans 4 stars
11/29/03 ajay tried to be cool with Memento-editing but it was overdone, confusing and masked a bad story 2 stars
11/22/03 smartmusician GREAT!!! 5 stars
11/21/03 benice save your money, worst movie of the year. 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-Nov-2003 (R)
  DVD: 03-Oct-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  22-Jan-2004




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