Sunday, October 20, 2019

Zodiac (2007) Serial Killer Neo Noir Masterpiece

Zodiac is a great Neo Noir.

It's a sort of an amalgam of Police Procedural Noirs like one of the earliest, M (1931), also He Walked by Night (1948), The Naked City (1948), The Blue Lamp (1950) The Big Heat (1953) and the Newspaper Noirs like Scandal Sheet (1952), Call Northside 777 (1948), While the City Sleeps (1956) etc., etc., with a lot of noir visuals and style.

Zodiac was directed by David Fincher, of his films I've liked Se7en (1995), and the fantasy The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), didn't care that much story-wise for Gone Girl, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or The Social Network. From those last three listed choices of films that he made, they don't particularly give me the confidence to attend one of his films on the basis of his name alone being connected with the project. With director names like the Coen Brothers, Tarantino, or Lynch, I'll pretty much do a blind buy in, its a good bet I'll know what I'm getting.

It sort of makes me long for the old Hollywood Studio system, at least the part where, say a good director of Crime Films or Westerns would be able to carve out a nice Genre niche and perfect his style and ideas over a series of films. Se7en and Zodiac were great Police Procedural Noirs, I wish he'd make more of them, he made great ones.

Zodiac was written by James Vanderbuilt and was based on Robert Graysmith's eponymous book. Robert was a political cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle. In 1969 when the Zodiac killer case broke, he attempted to decode the four cryptograms sent to the paper and in turn became obsessed with the case. He wrote two books about the Zodiac and five other pieces on other crimes. One of those was made into the film  Auto Focus (2002).

The well researched film (a lot of scenes where shot where the actual events happened) follows the investigations by Graysmith, San Francisco Chronicle crime reporter Paul Avery, San Francisco Police Department inspectors Dave Toschi and Bill Armstrong, and Sgt. Jack Mulanax from the Vallejo, California Police Department where the first Zodiac killing took place.

It's Fincher's style, the cinematography of Harris Savides, the dietetic soundtracks, and the music by David Shire, that combine to suck you into the story.


Mark Ruffalo as Insp. Dave Toschi

Zodiac's cryptogram

Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Graysmith rt.

Robert Downey Jr. as Paul Avery

 Elias Koteas as Sgt. Jack Mulanax

Brian Cox as Melvin Belli

Chloë Sevigny as Melanie Graysmith

The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals (2016)) as Robert Graysmith, Mark Ruffalo (Collateral (2004)) as Insp. Dave Toschi, Robert Downey Jr (Natural Born Killers (1994)) as Paul Avery, Anthony Edwards as Insp. Bill Armstrong, Chloë Sevigny (Palmetto (1998), The Brown Bunny (2003), Lovelace (2013)) as Melanie Graysmith , Brian Cox (Poodle Springs (1998)) as Melvin Belli, John Carroll Lynch (Fargo (1996)), as Arthur Leigh Allen, Dermot Mulroney as Captain Marty Lee, Elias Koteas (Hit Me (1996), The Killer Inside Me (2010)) as Sgt. Jack Mulanax, Donal Logue as Captain Ken Narlow and Philip Baker Hall (Zabriskie Point (1970), Hard Eight (1996), Hit Me (1996), Boogie Nights (1997)) as Sherwood Morrill.

It's more like an ensemble film. All the actors do a great job though none of them really stands out performance wise, though of course most time is spent with Gyllenhaal, Downey Jr., Ruffalo, Edwards and Sevigny. They all could have been replaced by other actors with no real change in the overall quality of the film. 9/10

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