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Overall Rating
3.74

Awesome34.51%
Worth A Look: 23.94%
Average: 26.76%
Pretty Bad: 10.56%
Total Crap: 4.23%

13 reviews, 64 user ratings


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21 Grams
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by EricDSnider

"It's how much the film's importance weighs."
3 stars

Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu made waves in 2001 with the marvelous "Amores Perros," which began with a car crash and then showed us the lives of the people involved in it. His first English-language film, "21 Grams," which he has again co-written with Guillermo Arriaga, also uses a car accident as a means of making strangers' lives intersect, and also tells its story in a non-linear fashion. The difference is that unlike "Amores Perros," the story in "21 Grams" is negligible. Untangle it, put it in proper order, and look at it objectively, and you see that both plot and characters are thin and threadbare.

Though it might be a case of style over substance, the style of "21 Grams" is so engaging you can almost overlook its lack of substance. We meet several different characters, some with no clear connection to each other, some in what seem to be contradictory circumstances. For example, there is Sean Penn lying on his deathbed, then needing a heart transplant, then lying on the floor having been shot. There's Benicio Del Toro being urged to phone an ambulance, and there he is again preaching born-again Christianity to a misdirected teenager.

All of the film rolls forth in that manner, with moments occurring out of sequence, all the pieces of the puzzle being assembled randomly. We learn, gradually, the basics: There has been a car accident resulting in death, and that death facilitated an organ transplant. The death was wrongful, however, and the car accident occurred out of gross negligence. Justice must be paid.

Del Toro plays Jack Jordan, an ex-con who found Jesus and now runs his family's lives with a harsh zealousness. In his belief system, everything happens because God wants it that way, including the car accident and its aftermath. Somewhat less accepting of that philosophy is Penn's character, Paul Rivers, a mathematician whose grave illness has strained his relationship with his wife Mary (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and who seems wearily unsurprised when receiving a new heart does not, in fact, make anything better.

Naomi Watts is connected with all this, too, as Cristina Peck, a grieving widow.

The performances from the leads are gritty and realistic; these are good actors, in top form, led by a director whose knack for working with ensembles has already been demonstrated. I just wish it added up to more! The film tries to sound ponderous in matters of death and fate (the title refers to the myth that upon dying, a human body loses 21 grams -- the apparent weight of the soul), but achieves only the level of art-house pretension. Its unorthodox storytelling method makes it engrossing, for the most part, if only to figure out what the heck's going on, and maybe it's best just to leave it at that. Whatever deeper meaning there might be is obscured by platitudes and by the film's chronological trickery.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8348&reviewer=247
originally posted: 12/21/03 10:34:58
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User Comments

2/05/17 Aidan Butler Sean Penn character destroys logic of movie 3 stars
1/02/13 Davie bummer. 2 stars
11/26/10 Sia Shar one of great movies of the 2003 and the decade 5 stars
9/18/08 PAUL SHORTT CRUSHES ITS CHARACTERS UNDER ITS FOOT, THEN STEPS BACK & WANTS YOU TO LOOK AT THE MESS 1 stars
7/20/08 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
12/06/06 andrew worst movie ever. boring and sux 1 stars
11/24/06 Charlene Javier Loved it as well 4 stars
6/25/06 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
11/22/05 Taylor Fladgate 4 Stars - but be sure to be ready to be depressed. Whoa. 4 stars
9/20/05 Indrid Cold Great use of a fractured narrative to spice up an otherwise ho-hum story. 5 stars
8/19/05 ES Broken time lines inmovie generally mean the director wasn't sure how to film it 3 stars
6/13/05 Agent Sands Plot order is as if PA dropped the script & had 2 shuffle it back together in a hurry. 4 stars
5/07/05 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
11/09/04 Matthew Wow..what an awesome movie! Naomi Watts rocks! 5 stars
9/03/04 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
8/12/04 kc finished the movie feeling...eh... 3 stars
8/01/04 Brad Gripping, great performances. 5 stars
7/17/04 Jim & Deborah incredible movie/fabulous directing and acting / "outside the box" so to speak. 5 stars
5/26/04 michele excellent! Del Toro's acting is hypnotic 5 stars
5/23/04 Monster W. Kung Good acting, but plot is tedious and the absurdly bleak and fractured approach don't help. 3 stars
5/17/04 elizaveta a really great out-of-order film. Sean Penn rocks, as ever. 5 stars
5/13/04  Shaun Rose Excellent movie with agreat cast, I reccomend to anybody who hasn't seen it 4 stars
4/23/04 Alex A good movie about life 5 stars
4/20/04 Phil M. Aficiando Mind jumbling pysche beater; great acting helps a lot, but.... 3 stars
4/07/04 A F Tried to hard to mess with the sequence 3 stars
4/05/04 Charlene Javier Proves that Amores Perros is no fluke! 5 stars
4/04/04 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
3/28/04 Frank Lynch 21 Grams is a pretentious bore. 2 stars
3/25/04 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
3/17/04 Holly Beeman I almost feel like it would have been more powerful in sequence, but he's got the tech! 4 stars
3/11/04 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
1/28/04 marzio arigoni@rtsi.ch a punch in your stomach! Great performances, especially Watts and Del Toro, and editing 4 stars
1/27/04 Chloe Brody Not Sean's finest performance, but really powerful. Naomi deserves the Oscar! 4 stars
1/25/04 Smitty The most beautifully acted lousy movie I've ever seen 2 stars
1/23/04 Betty White Heavy, dark drama with grand performances. 4 stars
1/22/04 HAL You must think to understand this film and our thoughts are not linear. Fine film. 5 stars
1/21/04 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
1/19/04 Gretchen Seitz "---" sucks! Since when is "no taste" a burnable in hell offense. 2 stars
1/19/04 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
1/17/04 john bale Brilliant yet difficult gritty drama about Fate, great actors, grungy sets and camerawork 4 stars
1/12/04 KCobain Awful and depressing. Walked out after 45 minutes. 1 stars
1/03/04 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
12/30/03 ownerofdajoint if you like deep overlapping plots then you'll think this is a great movie;which it is 5 stars
12/20/03 AXE k 1 stars
12/15/03 Slo. Zombie This review just SUCKS !!! 21 grams AND Mystic river are two masterpieces of modern cinema! 5 stars
12/03/03 re A GREAT FILM 5 stars
11/30/03 Todd Stein A great film, interesting study of humans 4 stars
11/30/03 ajay tried to be cool with Memento-editing but it was overdone, confusing and masked a bad story 2 stars
11/23/03 smartmusician GREAT!!! 5 stars
11/22/03 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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