Falling on the heels of The Road, here is a similarly themed vision of a post-apocalyptic dystopia where cannibals and criminals make up what’s left of the human species. Survivalist extraordinaire Eli (Denzel Washington) has spent the last 30 years — since the world's final war — walking and lying in wait to kill his dinner when he isn’t reading from the Bible that he lugs around with a giant knife and a sawed-off shotgun.
Eli eventually comes face to face with a criminal kingpin and book-fanatic Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who sizes up Eli as a man of secrets and sends in his adopted daughter Solara (Mila Kunis) to act as a prostitute/spy. Eli rebuffs her affection, but he unintentionally lets her see the hefty Bible he possesses.
It isn't long before Carnegie and his ruffians are in hot pursuit of Eli and his new traveling partner.
The glorified chase plot finally runs out of gas when Malcolm McDowell shows up as librarian collector of literary artifacts who has most of a set of Encyclopedia Britannica but not a single copy of a Bible. The story never allows for any kind of unity of opposites to develop between Eli and Carnegie, who might have some latent redeeming quality since he so ferociously covets the word of the Lord.
Newbie screenwriter Gary Whitta cares little for any kind of biblical references that might weigh down what is really more of a neo-western than a convincing measure of dystopic reality. This isn't a Samuel L. Jackson gospel-spewing potboiler after all, and Washington somehow seems a more capable post-apocalyptic hero. The Hughes brothers directing team are more interested in firing Gatlin guns than imparting thematic logic or character development.
Eli is a loner badass with a Bible, and if that isn't good enough for an audience to empathize with, then the exit doors are located at the front and rear of the cinema. Grade: C
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