Movie Review

Time-twisted formula

Washington goes somewhere in crime

Staff WriterNovember 22, 2006 

  • 2 1/2 stars

    CAST: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Paula Patton, Jim Caviezel.

    DIRECTOR: Tony Scott.

    LENGTH: 2 hours, 8 minutes.

    WEB SITE: dejavu.movies.go.com.

    THEATERS: Apex: Beaver Creek. Cary: Crossroads. Chapel Hill: Timberlyne. Durham: Phoenix. Southpoint. Wynnsong. Garner: Towne Square. White Oak. Morrisville: Park Place. Raleigh: Brier Creek. Carmike. Grande. Mission Valley. North Hills. Six Forks. Wakefield. Roxboro: Palace. Smithfield: Smithfield.

    RATING: PG-13 (intense sequences of violence and terror, disturbing images and some sensuality).

Looks like Tony Scott has one-upped his big brother this holiday season.

While the revered Ridley Scott is driving away audiences with that alleged feel-gooder and Russell Crowe vehicle "A Good Year," little bro Tony has hooked up again with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and star Denzel Washington to direct the passable actioner "Deja Vu," a movie free of the wall-to-wall ultraviolence, migraine-inducing hyperediting and overwhelming odiousness that have plagued most of the younger Scott's recent films. I know -- I'm shocked too.

Scott works hard to scramble audiences brains through most of it, but here's the gist: Washington is Doug Carlin, a thorough ATF agent investigating a ferry bombing in New Orleans. His dedication catches the eye of FBI agent Andrew Pryzwarra (a doughy Val Kilmer), who invites him to join a secret government team that investigates crimes through a "time window lab." They tell him that they have pre-explosion surveillance footage from advanced satellite cameras, but what they really have is a bridge that allows them to view four days into the past.

How did they stumble upon this bridge? Yeah, I got lost at that part. Screenwriters Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio kick in some time-travel mumbo-jumbo that I'm sure would make even Stephen Hawking go, "What have these fools been smoking?" But the plot is quite simple to follow, as Washington's ATF man uses this newfound technology to not only track down the mad bomber (played by none other than Jesus Christ himself, Jim Caviezel), but to halt the death of a victim ("Idlewild" chanteuse Paula Patton) he becomes increasingly drawn to.

"Deja" holds few big surprises. The story is familiar enough to have people thinking this is just "Stargate" for urban (read: grape soda-swigging) audiences or "Somewhere in Time" if Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour were black. But "Deja" is still Scott's most OK movie in a long while. Actually, it's his most OK movie since "Crimson Tide," the first movie he worked with Washington on 11 years ago. Proudly, respectfully filmed on location in The Big Easy post-Katrina, "Deja" serves as a welcome reminder that New Orleans is alive and well and can attract Denzel Washington to shoot a film.

With the way Scott keeps himself in check during "Deja Vu," turning out a slick-but-subdued sci-fi/action/romance/whatevah, it makes me think he should work with Washington in every movie. That way, he won't make any more junk like "Domino."

Staff writer Craig D. Lindsey can be reached at 829-4760, clindsey@newsobserver.com or blogs.newsobserver.com/unclecrizzle.

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