Mable's Unique Gifts





I really dug Zodiac. I read the Robert Graysmith book when it first came out and I think David Fincher did a great job capturing the feel of the story without compromising the facts.

Fincher shows a surprising amount of restraint in the movie, considering this is the guy that gave us the over the top serial killer masterpiece, Seven (sorry, I can't bring myself to use that lame "7" in the middle spelling). The killings attributed to The Zodiac Killer are done in a very unglamorous matter of fact style that's actually refreshing considering the wave of sadistic torture collages with grainy stock footage and high volume rock music we've grown accustomed to as of late. They seem very real, and in the case of the Lake Berryessa killings, even more tragic than they would have been, otherwise.

I may not be the best judge of this film, and frankly can't figure out how the average movie goer is going to respond. It's 2 hours and 40 minutes and JAM PACKED with evidence, facts, and figures that all seem pretty true to the actual case. So those familiar with the real Zodiac crimes should be pleased that there's not any crazy Hollywood embellishment going on here.

That being said, if you're looking for some serial killer du jour film, I don't think this movie is going to do it for you. The cast is fantastic, and Jake Gyllenhaal as cartoonist/author/part time Hardy Boy Robert Graysmith has a sullen and obsessive charm that works wonderfully in the role. In one scene, he asks a fellow newspaper employee nicknamed Shorty if he hates being called that, to which he's asked, "Do you hate it when people call you retarded?" He plays the part with a clueless abandon that really makes you feel for the guy.

Robert Downey, Jr. is also a kick as The Chronicle's crime reporter, Paul Avery, who gets to stretch his acting range by playing a coked out drunk writer. Mark Ruffalo is also exceptional as the animal cracker munching Detective Tosci, who becomes consumed with the case in more ways than one. There's other great performances, that are perfectly cast so as not to make you feel it's one of those Oliver Stone movies with famous people in every part. Brian Cox is particularly good as attorney Melvin Belli and Chloe Sevigny owns every second she's on film as Graysmith's ladyfriend.

It's nice to see a true crime movie that for once doesn't glamourize the crime. Indeed, The Zodiac Killer with his coded letters and taunting of the police and press, made him seem like a comic book super villian. And the fact that he was never caught certainly thows him up there with Jack the Ripper as one of the all time infamous murderers. But red tape, job burn out, and inability to put what at times seem to be obvious clues together from multiple organizations that end up being the real antagonist of the movie.

Again, kudos to Finch for holding back and letting the story tell itself properly with the script and actors. There are certainly some flourishes that stick out that are pure Fincher that I won't reveal here, so if you're a fan of his style, you won't be disappointed.

In the original version of the book that I read, there was some speculation as to the killer's identity, and you can certainly read an awful lot about more recent findings that have been incorporated into the film on Wikipedia if you really want to know more about the case (and perhaps spoil some of the film's direction, if you didn't already know). Ultimately, however, the story ends with a feeling of dread that works nicely.

It's hard to know what to spoiler about real life events, but the movie doesn't take any liberties or suggest anything new that Graysmith hasn't already suggested.

My only disappointment is that nobody ever read the line in the Zodiac letters about how he thought The Exorcist was one of the funniest films he'd ever seen. Most of the other evidence, down to the goofy greeting cards, was pretty faithfully recreated, too. There's great attention to detail with the period, with very cool '70s era news vans and mail trucks driving by. There's also a super gorgeous computer simulated time lapse of The Transamerican Pyramid being built while clouds roll by.

There are certainly some pacing issues with the film that may irk some, but I found the subject matter to be so fascinating that I didn't have any problems with it.  I did have the feeling that there's a longer cut in the making, however, as there's a really awkward bit in the last 15% of the film where Graysmith's son shows him some important clue in a coded letter that's never all that clear or explained. I wonder if it was cut out for time.

This will be a great deluxe 2 DVD set when it comes out, for sure.

Overall, a good movie, that's a bit long, and a breath of fresh air for this sort of film.

-Robert Berry






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