(R) 2.5 Stars
Have you ever seen a moment early in a film that made you roll your eyes and think Please? This happens during the opening credits of Freedomland. Brenda (Julianne Moore) wanders through the neighborhood where she works. As she enters the hospital she shows her hands, which are both bloody followed by the credit "Directed by Joe Roth" over the image.
Moore tells detective Lorenzo (Samuel L. Jackson) that she was a victim of a carjacking by a black man between 5-8 and 5-10 and weighing one hundred and some-odd pounds. If that isn't enough, she later admits that her four year-old son was in the backseat of the car.
Add it up: the vague description of the perpetrator, the delay in revealing her son was in the car, plus Brenda's brother is an angry white cop (Ron Eldard). A fleet of cops is sent into the black housing complex and all hell breaks loose. Was this a simple car jacking? Was it race related? What is Freedomland? Didn't Julianne Moore have a missing child in The Forgotten? A semi-spoiler alert, the less you know about Susan Smith the better.
Jackson is usually good even if the material isn't. He gives us a cop with asthma and child issues of his own.
I don't know if Julianne Moore gave a good performance. I know she gave an exhausting performance. There's a scene near the film's climax that James Lipton will definitely ask her about on Inside the Actor's Studio. It will either bowl you over or, as many in the screening crowd said out loud, "She's crazy."
There are a couple of nice scenes involving Edie Falco, who plays one of those people who organize missing child searches. For once it's nice to see William Forsythe, who plays Jackson's partner, not cast as a scumbag.
At times, director Joe Roth (America's Sweethearts, Christmas With The Kranks) makes Oliver Stone seem subtle; images like the already-mentioned stigmata on Moore's hands. Another scene shows Moore returning to the community center where she works, greeting the children, split screened with a kid's drawing of stick people of different colors (we get it, thank you). There's also a stand-off scene between police in riot gear and angry black people. What's missing is Mookie tossing a trash can through Sal's window.
It doesn't help that Crash, a superior film about race relations, is up for Best Picture. Freedomland is part detective drama and part race-relations drama that never really gels. Like the kids who aren't that good in Little League, Freedomland tries really, really hard.