Reviewed by

Bud Carlson

Freedomland simply bites off more than it can chew. On one hand, it’s a police drama, as Detective Lorenzo Council (Samuel L Jackson) seeks to solve the mystery of a missing child who is the victim of a carjacking. On the other hand, it’s a disturbed woman drama, as Brenda Martin (played by Julianne Moore) melodramatically attempts to come to terms with her disturbing upbringing and her perception of her role in society. On the third hand, it’s a drama about a group of parents who travel from town-to-town as needed, and whose mission is to save and rescue lost children. And on the fourth hand, it’s a race-drama, as a police blockade (related to the carjacking) creates an instantaneous riot-potential situation (complete with riot-gear-wearing cops on one side lined up against an angry mob of residents from the projects). Freedomland tries to deliver important and powerful messages along all three of those storylines, but instead wanders between those topics without actually addressing any of them very well. The problem is, the story doesn’t effectively fuse those different threads together with very much effect.


The storyline driving Freedomland is ambitious and unwieldy. The story takes place in the Armstrong developmental projects in New Jersey, and starts with Brenda Martin wandering shellshocked into a hospital with torn up and bloody hands. She eventually tells Detective Council that she has been carjacked by a black man, with her 4 year old son asleep in the vehicle’s back seat. But before Det Council can make a move, Brenda’s brother Danny (who is also a cop, played by Ron Eldard) initiates a police blockade of the Armstrong projects, trapping the black residents inside. The racial tension-driven anger that results is portrayed to be a ticking time-bomb just waiting to expolode. With this in the background, Detective Council wants to work quickly to find out what happened to the missing boy, to keep things at the blockade from getting ugly, but Brenda, who is not cooperative and isn’t telling the whole story, only slowly

(and in a disturbed fashion) reveals information unknown to everyone else. Then, Edie Falco shows up as Karen, the leader of a group of mothers who take it upon themselves to search for missing children.


Every aspect of the movie is overstated and overly-dramatized. Brenda is pained beyond the point of functionality, and her inability (or is it unwillingness?) to tell us what she knows about her son seems to drag the movie along. Her brother Danny acts without reason, if only to provide the “ticking clock” that creates the sense of urgency to the investigation. And the whole mob vs police thing as the powder keg, just seemed a contrived situation to force Detective Council to stop the ticking clock before the bell goes off. The movie pulls out all the stops to try to give you the sense of anxiety, but there’s nothing really there. It’s nothing more than a cliché (the mob scene) in the background, and a bunch of characters not much deeper than stereotypes (not only Brenda and Det Council, but even the police officers and the Armstrong residents). All of the characters are prone to extended monologues, only very few of which have any bearing on the story. For example, there’s a scene where Det Council and Brenda are talking in the hospital, and Council has some sort of asthma attack or something, and he sort of freaks out about it; it’s all well and good, but it has no relevance to anything in the rest of the movie.


But the biggest victim of all of this over-dramatization is Julianne Moore. Her character Brenda is really the person on whom the entire plot hinges, but yet she is nothing more than an emotional basket-case operating on histrionics. In fact, I dare say that she has more scenes driven by her histrionics in this movie than all the wives in all the houses on your entire block for the past month! The biggest example of this is in a late scene, where she does about a 5-minute soliloquy that reveals a whole story that has been going on behind the story we’ve been seeing, but that we had no idea about. The movie came to a dead halt, and I must say that it is the worst scene I have seen Julianne Moore ever do.


So in short, this movie was convoluted and confused. It tried to make so many important points along so many different topics, but none of them rang true. The movie wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t entertaining



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