The Set of 400: #278 – My Favorite Dirty Harry Inspiration

Today! Because I am not the Zodiac. And if I were, I certainly wouldn’t tell you –

Zodiac (2007)

Directed by David Fincher

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr. (x3), Brian Cox (x2), John Carroll Lynch (x2), Anthony Edwards, Chloe Sevigny, Elias Koteas, Dermot Mulroney, Donal Logue (x2), Philip Baker Hall, Zach Grenier (x2), Adam Goldberg, Charles Fleischer (x2), Paul Schulze, John Getz, June Diane Raphael, Candy Clark, Jimmi Simpson, Clea DuVall

Not so much concerned with unearthing who the killer was (even though it does present a theory), Zodiac primarily follows the lives of San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith and S.F. detective Dave Toschi, and their respective obsessions with the case as it unfolds and in the subsequent years, as the trail runs maddeningly cold. It’s an expansive ’60s/’70s epic in the hands of the premiere murder mystery director of our time (Se7en, Gone Girl) – and one of the sure thing, must-run-out-and-see-whatever-he-does filmmakers – David Fincher.

And it is exhaustive. Covering the source material in great detail, and trying to encapsulate well over a decade in these characters’ lives, the movie naturally was going to be lengthy, but it manages to clip right along, even feeling a bit rushed in parts, pouring out details and recounting theories at a steady clip. But keeping the engine running solidly are the terrific performances of Gyllenhaal and Ruffalo as Graysmith and Toschi, plus a just pre-Iron Man Downey as self-destructive reporter Paul Avery. The Downey comeback was well underway by ’07 – what with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Good Night and Good Luck, and A Scanner Darkly in the preceding years – but Zodiac seemed to cement the fact that he was solidly reliable, and a little over a year later he was superheroing it up at Marvel.

’70s Banner and Stark!

But is it a cheat that the movie is about a series of unsolved murders? This has always been the problem with, say, Jack the Ripper movies, and Black Dahlia movies, and the Zodiac Killer – how unsatisfying is it to watch a murder mystery and not really have a solution? And this movie goes to the extreme of only half-focusing on a resolution to the case. Again, they’ve got a theory, and with what they present, it makes sense, but who knows? I’m okay with it – the journey is fully engrossing, so the fact that their killer only may be the killer is fine with me – but I don’t know if everyone is on board with this style of storytelling. It’s a terrific movie, and opened in second at the box office, with a third the gross of the other new movie that week, Wild Hogs. Come on, America!

In case you’ve forgotten, Wild Hogs is terrible beyond words

Critics were sure on board, though – despite being released in March, Zodiac appeared on the third most Top Ten lists in 2007 (after only Oscar darlings No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood). It snagged a bunch of critics type nominations for Picture and Director, but nothing from the Academy or even the Globes, as they rarely recognize that movies released in the first half of the year have any merit whatsoever. Well, let’s hand out a Best Donovan Award, for the film’s usage of the singer’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” which I can’t hear now without thinking of gloomy, nighttime San Francisco and people getting shot to death in their cars. Fun!

Five new Two-Timers join the club – should we keep recounting this? We’re up to 196 people now! Hey, we’ve come this far, why stop now? Brian Cox (#320 Match Point), John Carroll Lynch (#330 Face/Off), Donal Logue (#378 Sneakers), Zach Grenier (#326 Delirious), and Charles Fleischer (#344 Back to the Future Part II), along with Downey as the lone new Three-Timer, after his roles in #383 Sherlock Holmes and #397 Wonder Boys.

He’s had an alright career post-Roger Rabbit!

Coming tomorrow! Do you know what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning?

2 Comments

Filed under Movies

2 responses to “The Set of 400: #278 – My Favorite Dirty Harry Inspiration

  1. shortgirlnation

    Made before the Ted Cruz theory, I see 😉

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