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Overall Rating
3.74

Awesome34.75%
Worth A Look: 24.11%
Average: 26.24%
Pretty Bad: 10.64%
Total Crap: 4.26%

13 reviews, 63 user ratings


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21 Grams
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Sophomore slump."
3 stars

"21 Grams," director Alejandro González Iñárritu's follow-up to his majestic "Amores Perros," carries both the excitement and the self-defeat of a young filmmaker convinced that he can do anything. It's a brilliant failure -- a structural experiment that dazzles in individual pieces but utterly lacks any overriding, accumulating emotional power. I'm very glad that I saw it and that it was made, and I never want to see González Iñárritu do it again.

21 Grams tells a rather simple story, or trio of stories, which, like the tales in Amores Perros, are unified by a vehicular tragedy. Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro) is an ex-convict who has given it over to Jesus; he credits his Savior with everything from his clean new life to the big truck he drives. One night, driving this truck, Jack cuts a corner too fast and kills a man and his two daughters, leaving behind a grief-stricken widow, Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts), a recovering drug addict who has flung herself into her family as avidly as Jack has into religion. Cristina makes the hard decision to allow her husband's heart to be donated to Paul Rivers (Sean Penn), an ailing math professor who desperately needs it.

The fatal problem with 21 Grams is that the story is largely given to us in shuffled pieces; the chronology is splintered and all over the map. Hardly any scenes proceed from each other; González Iñárritu and his writer, Guillermo Arriaga, are too busy hopping around in time. Now Cristina has a family, now she doesn't, now she does again. Now Paul is dying, now he has a new heart and a new lease on life, now he's dying again. Now Jack has long hair and a job, now he's in jail, now he's got short hair and a job, now he's in jail again. Eventually, somewhere in the second hour, the movie does become somewhat more linear, but the damage is done. The structure simply doesn't let any of the characters build an arc of growth or despair; aside from being confusing, the narrative locks us out.

González Iñárritu does pull off some overwhelming moments, with the help of an eager cast (also including Charlotte Gainsbourg as Paul's estranged wife and Melissa Leo as Jack's slightly frightened wife). Del Toro's Jack burns with shame and religious conviction -- either way he's burning, and Del Toro lets you see how tenuous Jack's pious restraint on his inner animal sometimes is. Penn's Paul is a quiet, intellectual type, of the sort Penn doesn't often play, who gets caught up in the passion of looking for the former owner of his heart. Watts shines brightest as the despairing Cristina, decaying before our eyes, a lost soul redeemed by family and then removed from it.

"21 Grams" is powerfully acted and, scene for scene, well-directed, but I can't say it's well-put-together. Nor can I say the movie's baffling scheme is lazy or pointless; it has clearly been structured this way for a reason, but nothing in the film will tell you why.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8348&reviewer=416
originally posted: 11/13/06 13:30:41
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User Comments

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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