Picks and Pans Review: Freedomland

updated 02/27/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/27/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

Samuel L. Jackson, Julianne Moore, Edie Falco

A movie that tries hard to get beyond its ripped-from-the-headlines premise, Freedomland fizzles at exactly the points it should fly. Based on a novel by Richard Price and directed unevenly by Joe Roth (Christmas with the Kranks), the film follows a police detective (Jackson) as he attempts to get to the bottom of a high-profile case. The victim is a white woman (Moore) who says she was carjacked by a black man near an inner-city New Jersey housing project and that the assailant drove off with her 4-year-old son still in the backseat. The deeper the cop digs, the more he suspects there's something fishy about her story.

Freedomland is full of big emotion-packed scenes, but they fail to add up; it's all noise, signifying nothing. Jackson, his deep brown eyes conveying miles of hurt, is the best thing here. His is a character worthy of a coherent sequel. Moore, saddled with a role that wavers between comatose and I'm-ready-for-my-close-up theatrics, goes down flailing. (R)


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