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DEJA VU (director: Tony Scott; screenwriters: Bill Marsilii/Terry Rossio; cinematographer: Paul Cameron; editor: Chris Lebenzon; music: Harry Gregson-Williams; cast: Denzel Washington (Doug Carlin), Paula Patton (Claire Kuchever), Val Kilmer (Agent Pryzwarra), Jim Caviezel (Carrol Oerstadt), Adam Goldberg (Denny), Elden Henson (Gunnars), Erika Alexander (Shanti), Bruce Greenwood (Jack McCready), Matt Craven (Larry Minuti), Shondrella Avery (Fed Secretary), Enrique Castillo (Claire’s Father), Elle Fanning (Abbey); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Jerry Bruckheimer; Touchstone Pictures; 2006)
“Loses its bearings in hokum.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Schlock action director Tony Scott (“Enemy of the State”/”Top Gun”/ “Man on Fire”) teams once again with schlock action producer Jerry Bruckheimer for this gobbledygook sci-fi action thriller concerning Denzel Washington as New Orleans-born ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) agent Doug Carlin, who travels back in time to not only solve but prevent a devastating terrorist crime committed by a Timothy McVeigh-like patriot played by Jim Caviezel spouting his gripes against the government with the same passion he played Jesus in Gibson’s Passion Of The Christ. Writers Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio cook up a whopper of a story playing fast and loose with time travel theories and intermingling that tale with a story about home-grown terrorist Carrol Oerstadt (Caviezel) and a routine crime procedural murder mystery that covers the murder of beautiful Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton). Her story reminds one of Otto Preminger’s Laura, 1944, and the detective played by Dana Andrews who falls in love with the beautiful dead victim’s portrait as he obsessively tries to solve the crime. This deja vu experience film leaves so many gaping holes in the ludicrous and confusing script, even for the action genre film, that to take it all in without at least wincing at how over complicated and muddled it is, was just not possible (relatively speaking, that is).

The film set after Katrina (the first film shot in post-Katrina New Orleans, and uses for a major scene the ruins of the Ninth Ward), opens in New Orlean’s Canal Street dock where 543 men, women and children, including many sailors, have boarded a passenger ferry for a Mardi Gras celebration on Fat Tuesday and before sailing the ferryboat is blown to pieces by an explosion killing them all. It’s an impressive technical scene, especially since it wasn’t done by computer.

Lonely super sleuth Carlin comes to the crime scene late and though it has already been investigated by the FBI finds a tiny piece of evidence that no one else could and that should be enough to nab the bomber. This impresses pudgy FBI agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer) so much so that he takes Carlin to the top-secret government bunker and lets him in on the secret computer tracking device his people have invented called Snow White (an advanced surveillance system), that can unfold back the past and therefore allow one to revisit the past. The brain behind this device, Denny (Adam Goldberg), and his brilliant techie team, explain all the mumbo jumbo involved, drooling over their techno-surveillance high-speed computer graphics that give off digitally enhanced images that hooks up seven satellites with their special all-seeing camera that can review events from four days ago. Carlin sees this advanced technology as not only an opportunity to solve the case (which is simply on the Columbo realm, anyway) but, after catching a peek at the beautiful murder vic, Claire, on a slab in the morgue and then in the raw in the shower, he’s now hopelessly pining for her and dares to rescue her and prevent the tragedy by himself returning to the past.

The supernatural stuff attempted is nothing but high-concept gimmickry, which is at best pseudo-science and its narrative bears no resemblance to the real world. It loses its bearings in hokum as it goes beyond even the Hollywood fantasy reality for the Superman flicks. The diversionary plot makes several references to Katrina and uses the Oklahoma City tragedy to make its terrorism point, but this time-travel romance and anti-terrorist thriller would have worked better if it shot for being a straight comedy (the lecture on quantum physics was funny like Jerry Lewis was in The Nutty Professor). The only sense of deja vu I got, was seeing a lively Bourbon Street and the French Quarter again.

REVIEWED ON 11/23/2006 GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”