This film was one of those that slipped under the radar and was always one that I felt I missed out on. The premise of a code breaking crime thriller was the major attraction and one that usually always pushes my film appreciation buttons. I knew very little about the film….actually that’s and understatement, I knew nothing about the film. I knew the plot was about a murderer who used a code to give the cops clues and I knew it was based on a true story which usually always gives the film added poignancy.
It goes without saying that I was horrified when Jake Gyllenhall appeared on screen! His lack of acting finesse never ceases to amaze me. His moping schoolboy face screams "kill me now and put me out of my emo misery!" while his confused face does nothing other than get under my skin. Unfortunately these veneered facial expressions appear right from the start and left me gasping for 'Jake Gyllenhall free airspace' by the end of it.
After my brain had finished dismantling Gyllenhall's acting ability I was determined not to write the film off there and then. The start was reasonable if not a little predictable, but there was enough violence to shock you into the plot and with the appearance of Downey Jr. my film expectations started to rise. However through no fault of his own even Rob DJ couldn't save this pancake and it has to be said that it is one of the most uninspiring films I have watched in recent times.
The Zodiac wrote the police letters and challenged them to break his codes providing the directors, producers and script writers with a perfect opportunity to challenge the audience and invite them to try and solve the riddles. Instead this seems to be written for a target audience of pregnant hillbillys living out of a toilet and cleaning their rabid syphilis with a wet sponge. Nothing is left to you as the viewer to wrap your mind around, in fact everything is spoon fed to you so badly that the director may as well appear on the screen waving a big wooden spoon around while making aeroplane noises.
The segregation of the audience is my main issue with the film because it defeats the object of a crime thriller. In my opinion the ideal crimer (That’s a portmanteau of the words Crime & Thriller) should present you with an array of possible suspects and allow you to try and guess your way through it (The Departed/Usual Suspects being great examples of this). In this film, the code is broken for you with no real explanation of how and then insults your intelligence further by presenting you with the only suspect and therefore the killer himself. What a joke!
After the letters and murders have been used and the film has used/mutilated all of the real life evidence it descends into a Jake Gyllenhall bore fest which focuses on his Cartoonist persona single handedly solving the case. Unfortunately for the directors and more importantly the audience, this relies on Gyllenhall's acting ability which is so dreadful it made my white blood cell count double in self defence.
If you make it this far then you really are doing well because it is terrible, I was watching this film alone in my room with the lights off for maximum effect and three times I muttered "Boooring" with nobody to even hear my dismay. I was more thrilled by the dump I had to have half way through! It came as a complete surprise to read that this is one of David Fincher's workings because the fear factor is so completely absent, I was more scared of the killer in scary movie.
All in all this film is pretty darn bad, the acting is poor, the script is more than sleep inducing and the code breaking is non-existent. The only things that save it are the violent killing scenes which are few and far between and Downey Jr. who is written out far too early.
If you want to learn about The Zodiac killing's then read a book, watch a documentary or listen to an audiotape, do not bother with this film. The plot loosely follows the true events, but without adequate script writing the truth cannot hold an audience for 195 minutes. It is this fact that makes the film feel more like a history lesson than a piece of entertainment.