The latest directorial effort from Joe Roth ("America's Sweethearts", "Christmas With the Kranks"), "Freedomland" is certainly a departure from Roth (head of Revolution Studios)'s prior efforts. The drama stars Julianne Moore as Brenda Martin, a woman who turns up one night in a New Jersey hospital, injured and claiming that she was carjacked outside a nearby housing project.
Detective Lorenzo Council (Samuel L. Jackson) interviews Brenda and learns that her son was also in the car at the time of the carjacking. This sets off a lockdown on the projects and it's not long before tensions between the housing residents and the police start flaring up. Lorenzo quickly realizes he only has a matter of time before he must solve the case, but making matters is her brother (Ron Eldard), an officer from another district who's making Council's investigation more difficult.
"Freedomland"'s look into racial and economic tensions doesn't offer any new insights, gathering together elements that have been explored in a deeper, more satisfying way in other films. Here we get occasional moments that work as well as they do largely because of the performances, but they aren't really tied together into a coherent and compelling whole, with problems such as plot holes, subplots that are never developed and moments that just aren't believable. Another issue is that the movie pretty much reveals all at around the 80-minute mark, which leaves it with not much momentum and an overlong wrap-up for the remainder of its nearly two hours.
Again, the film's best feature are the two lead performances, which carry the movie fairly well. Jackson's performance is one of his best in recent years, as the actor remains completely invested in the material and the performance is confident, moving and intense. It's certainly not the greatest material Jackson has ever been involved with, but he plays every moment superbly. Moore has played similar roles in the past, but this one is certainly not as sympathetic. While she's not as good here as she was in "The Forgotten", it's still a watchable (if rather overdone) effort from the actress. Also good in supporting roles are William Forsythe and Edie Falco.
Overall, "Freedomland"'s performances kept me interested, but the story (adapted by Richard Price from his own novel) never really goes into much depth on the subject matter and it begins to fall apart in the last quarter after it reveals too much too soon.
VIDEO: "Freedomland" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan. The presentation looked quite nice throughout, with only a few minor issues. Sharpness and detail were always solid, as the picture maintained well-defined and crisp throughout the show.
The presentation did display some slight edge enhancement in a handful of scenes, but it wasn't a major bother. Otherwise, the transfer looked largely clean and clear, with no print flaws and no pixelation or other issues. Colors were intentionally subdued throughout the flick and looked accurately presented, with no issues.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation remained front-heavy throughout the picture, with only a couple of minor instances of surround use here-and-there. Audio quality was fine, with crisp, clear score, sound effects and dialogue.
EXTRAS: Trailers for other movies from the studio.
Final Thoughts: "Freedomland" offers a fantastic performance from Samuel L. Jackson and a respectable one from Julianne Moore, but the material suffers from a few issues, such as an overlong wrap-up. The DVD boasts excellent audio/video quality, but barely any extras. Those interested should try a rental first.
The Film C