Movie Review
Zodiac poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published October 16, 2006
US Release: March 2, 2007

Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal , Mark Ruffalo , Robert Downey Jr. , Philip Baker Hall

R some strong killings, language, drug material and brief sexual images
Running Time: 158 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $33,080,084
9 of 150
The second half is disappointing given the tense buildup, but the film is still commendable for what it does get right.
David Fincher's thriller, Zodiac, plays like a follow-up to Seven (at 165 minutes) without the classic ending and rich layers. This is a film that builds upon its serial killer premise, but the story doesn't have that much to say. Fincher does keep us engaged with his dark and uneasy tone, but Zodiac can stall; the second half gets carried away in boring deliberations and a lame romance. Visually, the film looks really classy, especially in its office settings (an obvious throwback to All the President's Men), which elevates it from its rather conventional premise. The second half is disappointing given the tense buildup, but the film is still commendable for what it does get right.

Zodiac is set in the late 60?s and early 70?s in San Francisco and is about a real serial killer who called himself the Zodiac. The murderer communicated with police throughout his string of endeavors, and fed them clues (through puzzles) as to what he might do next. The film starts off with an unsettling opening sequence that resembles Mystic River?s haunting intro; there is a sheer sense of realism in the way matters unfold (in a commonplace), and it sets the tone very well. Zodiac achieves this level of suspense during several scenes with terrific atmosphere, but too much screen time is spent in the offices as characters endlessly debate the synonymous Zodiac.

The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr., and also features Anthony Edwards, who I thought delivered a surprisingly Oscar worthy, subtle performance. Ruffalo might steal the show for some (as the main detective), but I found his character type as more of a cliche, even though he does well with it. It is Robert Downey Jr. who really shines as his partner, but one can make the argument that he?s merely the same kooky character he?s commonly portrayed. Downey Jr. has been catching my eye in the last few years with some eccentric performances, and he brings a lot to this role (which was perhaps average before he signed on).

Zodiac ends up being more of a conventional detective thriller, but certain stretches save the film from being average. This was a work print when I saw it, and there were certain technical mistakes that will probably be cleared by the time of its release (a boom mike was in one shot, and a tracking shot {rail} was seen at the end). If the film does get edited down, it should help the flow a little bit, but the film still plays more like The Game (B-) and Panic Room (B-) than Seven (B+) and Fight Club (B+). It's not a return to form for Fincher, but is still worth a shot.
Lee's Grade: B-
Ranked #9 of 150 between Lars and the Real Girl (#8) and Zoo (#10) for 2007 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 2946 graded movies
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    March 3, 2007    Zodiac?s Fri average might resemble Collateral?s; both pictures were shot digitally, and Zodiac has been getting some of the same praise for its mature tone. -- Lee Tistaert
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