The Book of Eli review (Blu-ray)

Memo to all those God-loving Christians who live in America's Bible Belt – would you care to see a movie in which Denzel Washington quotes from the holy scriptures while kicking arse in an apocalyptic future where the Earth has been desecrated? If so, then this turkey is just the one for you. It's po-faced, portentous, hamfisted, unintentionally funny and never boring. And the King James version of the Bible gets major product placement.

Imagine Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter or Pale Rider with heavily symbolic Christian overtones writ large. Very large. That's what the Hughes brothers have given us here, in their first movie in nine years since 2001's From Hell. They've also thrown in shades of Mad Max and Kevin Costner's The Postman for good measure too. The world has been destroyed and is little more than a dustbowl, with scavengers reigning supreme. Washington plays the lone saintly soul trekking across America seeking the West, while despatching nasty marauders who cross his path with lethal ease.

He stops off at a town run by mad tyrant Oldman (pulling out all the stops here in a performance so over-the-top he risks suffering a hernia). Gary is desperate to find the one copy of the Good Book that still exists, all copies having been destroyed in the world's devastation, and, wouldn't you know it, dour Denzel possesses the only copy. After eviscerating most of Oldman's dastardly henchmen who have tried to kill him, he sets off Westwards accompanied by comely Kunis with Oldman and his scrappy band of remaining warriors giving chase. Comic relief is mercifully provided in one scene by Gambon and de la Tour as an aged couple who have been able to defend themselves from predators with an impressive arsenal of weaponry. Their scene is an absolute hoot, though laughs might not have been the result they were hoping for.

The fight scenes are capably done and the moody cinematography is certainly impressive, but the plot becomes more ludicrous as it goes along. By the time McDowell makes an appearance at the end one can only guffaw at the nonsensical narrative one has had to sit through. Denzel's attempt to be the planet's reverent saviour simply cannot be taken seriously. Well made to be sure but overall a demented farrago. The Christian Right, though, might wish to embrace it with open arms.

EXTRAS ★★ Deleted and alternate scenes; picture-in-picture mode; the five-minute featurette A Lost tale: Billy Carnegie's Backstory; the featurette Behind the Story; a featurette on the soundtrack.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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