Road to salvation?

Denzel Washington walks the walk in post-apocalyptic America

Denzel Washington’s Eli carries his special book across the wasteland.

Denzel Washington’s Eli carries his special book across the wasteland.

The Book of Eli
Starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman and Mila Kunis. Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes. Feather River Cinemas, Paradise Cinema 7 and Tinseltown. Rated R.
Rated 3.0

The world is having a bad day. It’s been having the same bad day since nigh on 30 years before, when some folks got into an argument about religion. One thing led to another, the sky was opened and the sun was let in at maximum volume. Now America looks like an Australian post-apocalyptic movie (but with more money thrown at it).

It’s like The Road, but with more warm ’n’ fuzzy. Which ain’t saying much. Motorcycle gangs are still raping and murdering for entertainment, and some folks are eating other folks. Others occupy their time maintaining battlewagons bristling with ghetto armor. No one rides a bicycle. Even in the post-apocalypse, everyone seems to think that bikes are silly. Silly America. So everyone else just huddles in the doorways of ruined buildings looking miserable.

Like this review, the movie takes way too much time getting around to the story. The story is that a desert despot wants some wandering dude’s Bible. Dude’s name is Eli, and he doesn’t want to hand it over. It’s his Bible. Granted, after the war everyone left who wasn’t blinded by the sun gathered up all the Bibles and burned them, so Eli’s Bible is the only one left. Seems pretty selfish to keep the only copy of The Word to oneself and not spread it, but that’s just the kind of guy Eli is. He’s also the kind of guy who can filet a room full of hard cases with only his bad-assed self and one nasty-looking sword. He’s a polite sort, though, when he’s not killing people over his Bible.

Eli’s played by Denzel Washington, so you know he’s a nice guy at heart. And the pocket Mussolini is played by Gary Oldman, which means plenty of scenery chewing until he gets his hands on that Bible. And being Oldman, his plans aren’t nice.

But mostly Eli walks. Walks, walks and walks. Sometimes people get in his way and asses get kicked. And then there’s a big reveal (which takes a lot of faith to swallow) and the story is over. Well, sorta. After that the movie keeps wandering along with a voiceover that explains everything to the slower members of the audience.

It’s a nice-looking picture, though—in an aggressively ugly sort of way. Sort of like a spaghetti western with too much sauce. Lots of Eli moving in slow motion and high-end music soaring. It almost seems to be embarrassed to be revolving around a pedestrian Mad Max with a Bible. Or maybe the directors were trying to make the padding look good.