Life for Ben Garvey (Paul Walker) isn’t so bad right now. Though he has spent some time in the clink for past indiscretions, he’s managed to set himself straight as he has a good job with promotion possibilities, he has a cute little five year old daughter in Katie (Brooklyn Proulx) who worships him and he has a beautiful wife in Lisa (Piper Perabo) who has stuck with her man through the rough times and is now enjoying the better times. Then his terminally criminal brother Ricky (Shawn Hatosy) comes to town. Lisa knows that Ricky is a cancer, but Ben does love his little brother despite the fact that little bro has wasted no time in attempting to rope Ben back into some illegal activity. Of course Ben isn’t trying to go back to jail, but then he loses his job through no fault of his own, money gets tight and seeing no other viable options he decides to go with his brother on one of those ‘can’t miss’ scores.
We’ve seen enough movies to know that a ‘can’t miss’ heist is always anything but, and tragically during this heist people die. Though Ben had nothing to do with killing anybody, this crime took place in Texas and committing a felony which ends in dead folks pretty much means that you’re going be getting up close and personal to a lethal injection regardless. A little girl has lost her father and a wife has become a widow as the poisons flow through Ben’s body… until he wakes up the next morning, or maybe many mornings later… in Oregon. And this is when ‘The Lazarus Project’ begins its twisty psychological tale.
How has Ben somehow escaped death and ended up as the handy man at a mental ward in Oregon is a little unclear, but considering that he is alive, his main goal is to get back home to his wife and child. However a mysterious figure, an angel perhaps named Avery (Lambert Wilson) has strongly advised Ben to leave his old life behind because he will only bring death and misery to his family. Besides, he will be reunited
with them again in the afterlife, this mysterious figure would inform him. Bedsides things aren’t so bad as he has a kindly old boss in Father Ezra (Bob Gunton), a good friend in the mentally challenged Robbie (Malcolm Goodwin), a dog and possibly even a girlfriend in Julie the therapist (Linda Cardellini), but he stills thinks of his family every minute of every day.
Then the weird stuff starts happening. A loon in the asylum (Tony Curran) tells Ben that things aren’t right, what he thinks he sees he doesn’t see, what he thinks has happened hasn’t really happened and soon he has to question his own sanity. Eventually he will discover the shocking truth.
Co-written and directed by John Glenn I’m not completely sure what to think after seeing ‘The Lazarus Project’. It’s an enjoyable enough movie to sit through as Glenn does a fine job setting up a completely perplexing and befuddling situation for his main character of Ben Garvey to go through, and the movie also does a good job in building up enough steam and tension that it really has you almost salivating in anticipation at the wonderment of what the hell could possibly be going on. Is it mystical? Is it spiritual? Is Ben Garvey dreaming or possibly it’s some kind of science fiction hocus pocus? I had no idea. Possibly because Glenn did such a great job in pacing this film in such a slow, but effective way, and that the allowed only bits and pieces of the plot slip through that when it finally came time for the big reveal of why whatever is happening is happening… I was disappointed. Now admittedly most of my disappointment is my own fault because I was really expecting some blockbuster alien type stuff or something as I let my imagination get away from me, but what we got instead was something that was real world logical. My disappointment is all on me.
Aside from my self inflicted disappointment in the resolution of ‘The Lazarus Project’, the movie was still very solid. Paul Walker isn’t a bad actor at all as he does what he can with various roles to attempt to shake the ‘pretty boy’ syndrome. Apparently being good looking seems to work great for actors when they’re getting started but sucks ass when they’re trying to get themselves taken seriously. Heath Ledger had to French kiss a dude to get taken seriously as an actor for goodness sakes. Not that I’m recommending you go Brokeback on us Mr. Walker. Regardless, considering that Paul Walker was in virtually every scene of this movie, he managed to carry the film quite well. Glenn also did a fine job with staging the atmosphere and mood of this film giving it an eerie almost horror movie feel, though it was pretty far from that.
This is a bit of a SPOILER but I did have a little problem with the actual final happy ending scene in this movie if only because it opens up quite the can of worms that extends to situations long after the movie has ended. I’m happy to see Ben with his family and all, but I mean dude is supposed to be dead. By order of the State no less. It’s going to be kind of hard to get a job and show up at PTA meetings and family reunions when the State allegedly put you to death. I’d love to how that whole thing plays out.
Still, despite my problem with the reveal and the happy ending, I thought that ‘The Lazarus Project’ was nicely acted drama that played with different genres in a very clever and interesting way.