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Worth A Look: 29.55%
Average: 25%
Pretty Bad: 2.27%
Total Crap: 3.41%

8 reviews, 40 user ratings

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Zodiac (2007)
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by Lybarger

"It takes real filmmakers to make a murder mystery without solving it."
4 stars

'Panic Room' director David Fincher’s latest movie is a fact-based thriller with little action and frustrated heroes who can’t quite bring a serial killer to justice. Believe it or not, these are the film’s strengths.

“Zodiac” has its share of chills (particularly in the third act), but much of its appeal comes from Fincher’s cold but strangely intimate approach. While there are a few fleeting scenes of horrific violence, Fincher instead emphasizes how the police and the press struggled to apprehend a murderer who terrorized Californians from the late 60s through the early 70s.

As depicted in the film, the killer dubs himself “Zodiac” and taunts the authorities with a series of letters that included relics of the crime scene or cryptic messages. For years he becomes an obsession for the San Francisco Chronicle’s crime reporter Paul Avery (a typecast but terrific Robert Downey, Jr.) and for cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Avery is a hard-drinking but seasoned journalist, but Graysmith often finds himself nearly missing deadlines because he’s trying to decode Zodiac’s messages. An Eagle Scout with a child-like fascination with puzzles, Graysmith even digs through Avery’s trash for information that might help in a case that’s not even on his beat.

The detectives in charge of the case, William Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards), have a long and seemingly fruitless task. While the killer’s correspondence is prolific and brazen, he’s gifted at avoiding potential witnesses and leaving no useful clues.

Furthermore, the extent of Zodiac’s crimes may never been known. In the film, Avery discovers that many of Zodiac’s claims were bogus, and much of the evidence collected in the case is contradictory and misleading.

Most thrillers of this sort, like Fincher’s earlier film “Se7en,” emphasize how sick and depraved the killer is (gee, do you think somebody who kills random strangers might have some issues?). But Fincher and screenwriter James Vanderbilt concentrate on the toll the investigation takes on the people who are trying to catch the killer.

Avery becomes a target for the killer, Toschi’s career suffers as the case becomes more protracted and Graysmith’s marriage to his wife Melanie (Chloë Sevigny) collapses.

In many ways, “Zodiac” is sort of an anti-“C.S.I.” Whereas the TV series and its legion of spin-offs celebrate how the police have lots of nifty toys that catch bad guys, “Zodiac” emphasizes that investigating crimes is often a difficult and unrewarding task. San Francisco cops lacked today’s tools, but even today’s police can be undermined by an intrusive reporter.

The film loses some steam around the middle. It’s tempting to fault the length, but Graysmith’s later quest would not be as compelling if we didn’t know how tough it was for experienced professionals to capture the perpetrator.

As a veteran of music videos, Fincher makes the 60 and 70s atmosphere look like an alien landscape. Thankfully, he’s also told a story that’s as engaging as the eye candy.

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originally posted: 03/11/07 18:37:52
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell 2 long but chilling 4 stars
1/06/11 David A. Mostly a documentary, but it gets scary when the Wallace Penny character gets into it. 4 stars
12/31/10 Simon Interesting source material, nice directing doesnt save the bland writing/pace; forgettable 3 stars
10/16/10 montedelasánimas Scary, realistic, sometimes perversely fun. Don't miss it. 5 stars
7/24/10 bagwell5 One of the best movies of the last decade. Long running time but always fascinating. 5 stars
7/05/09 MP Bartley Repeat viewings reveal more and more. An American classic. 5 stars
1/09/09 Anonymous. i loved it! 5 stars
7/27/08 Al from Bangkok Great. Nearly documentary in presentation, only riveting. 5 stars
3/05/08 ladavies Way too long, and not that memorable for me. 3 stars
1/23/08 Double M Finally a proper (and different) Fincher thriller, welcome back! Great directing and acting 5 stars
10/24/07 Ivana Mann The best serial killer movie since "Silence of the Lambs."Totally creepy & spellbinding! 5 stars
10/15/07 fools♫gold everything believable, everything enjoyable, everything just right 5 stars
9/01/07 Indrid Cold Well crafted but utterly bland, like a reenactment on Unsolved Mysteries. 3 stars
8/19/07 The Man If youre expecting a sensationalized thriller you may be disappointed. But its great. 5 stars
8/08/07 Dan Rizzi Terrific! Every performance here is outstanding, particularly Robert Downey Jr. 5 stars
8/05/07 Charles Tatum A modern day classic, riveting 5 stars
7/31/07 Monday Morning About 45 mins. too long, and Jake is about 150% too obsessed w/ the case. 3 stars
7/27/07 action movie fan good start but drags too much and has no suspense-a bit of a letdown 3 stars
7/03/07 William Goss Engrossing investigative epic is daunting in the best possible way. 4 stars
6/19/07 Jessiika My ass got really sore while i was watching it. I liked how he stabbed those people though. 3 stars
6/07/07 Germaine SO long. SO boring. Absolutely no depth or suspense. Terrible! 1 stars
5/23/07 MP Bartley Detailed, yet thoroughly absorbing. Superb performances. 4 stars
5/20/07 adam egas straight pimpin, loved it so much, soo good 1 stars
3/30/07 tracey I actually fell asleep and woke up to the cleaning crew staring at me. BORING. 3 stars
3/29/07 Lee A exciting thriller, that will haunt you long after the closing credit. 5 stars
3/21/07 carniv4 Good movie, but this tru story is not that compelling. Already forgotten it, 3 stars
3/17/07 Greg Holds your attention from start to finish, Downey is amazing! 5 stars
3/17/07 Jason Fisher Enthralling, absorbing from start to finish; no small feat for a movie nearly 3 hours long! 5 stars
3/14/07 Spark It BLOWS!!!! 1 stars
3/11/07 Pascal Boring, too long, no suprise, not even moving... very desapointing... 2 stars
3/10/07 dmitry Fincher's best because it doesn't just wallow in the grotesque 5 stars
3/06/07 Ryan Too long, too many details one some portions and not enough of others. Ending sucks 2 stars
3/06/07 George Jung Best film of 2007 so far. 5 stars
3/06/07 Luisa First half very engaging, but ran way too long... 4 stars
3/06/07 Gerald Sherfy Read the book instead; good performances and attention to detail but long in the tooth 3 stars
3/05/07 Edler Too long, no red-herrings, more like a documentary. But good to watch. 4 stars
3/04/07 Ole Man Bourbon Entertaining throughout its long run-time. Easy to recommend despite some reviews. 4 stars
3/04/07 E. N. Meticulously constructed; superlative filmmaking; a compelling and riveting film 5 stars
3/04/07 Shobert The longest episode of "Law & Order" I have ever seen. 3 stars
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  02-Mar-2007 (R)
  DVD: 24-Jul-2007

  18-May-2007 (15)
  DVD: 24-Sep-2007

  17-May-2007 (MA)

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