Freedomland Joe Roth

Freedomland tries to cover up its sloppy construction and poor script with stylish direction and flashily good acting, but it's ultimately unsatisfying.

The story has sensitive neighbourhood cop Lorenzo (Samuel L. Jackson) investigating the disappearance of a child belonging to the emotionally unstable Brenda Martin (Julianne Moore at her most fraught). Brenda's story of a black assailant results in a massive police crackdown on the housing projects close to Lorenzo's heart, and he finds himself caught in between investigating the crime and standing up for the residents of the neighbourhood.

The film takes a confusing turn part way through, shifting focus away from the inflamed race relations onto a strange group who search for missing children. Out of nowhere, everyone relocates to an abandoned orphanage (the titular Freedomland, barely connected to the bulk of the film) where an elaborate search party looks for the missing child while the mom is psychologically tortured to see if she pulled a Susan Smith and killed the kid herself.

The film's portrayal of police brutality and racially motivated tension is at least realistic and not at all sugar coated. Unfortunately, the script is full of plot holes and unrealistic leaps, and the relationship between Lorenzo and Brenda is unbelievably heightened and strange, certainly miles away from any semblance of proper police procedure.

Even with director Joe Roth setting the appropriate tone through tense music, jumpy editing and shaky, hand-held camera work, the film's material is too weak and scattered to make it worthwhile. (Sony)