Will you find Awakening the Zodiac thrilling? Does the thought of rummaging through a mundane mystery excite you? How about if you’re rewarded with a looney final act that contradicts the film’s creeping atmosphere? This isn’t a good sell because you already know the disheartening answers.
Mick and Zoe (Shane West and Leslie Bibb, as convincing and likeable lovers) are a down-and-out Virginian couple. They have found happiness with each other, but they could use a financial jumpstart to counter Mick’s habit of staking out storage locker auctions. Mick takes a chance on a particularly pricey locker, but the only noteworthy possession is an 8mm film reel capturing a double-homicide. With the help of a local conspiracy theorist and confidant (Matt Craven), a connection between the snuff footage and the infamous Zodiac Killer is made – a special reveal that could bear risks and a hefty cash reward.
The filmmaking in Awakening the Zodiac doesn’t compare to its ambitious premise, which is converted to a standard-issue thriller. Anyone who has knowledge about the secretive serial killer (or has watched David Fincher’s masterpiece Zodiac) will be ready for a puzzling, somewhat vague mystery. However, director/co-writer Jonathan Wright serves saggy suspense. In fact, Awakening the Zodiac is such a clashing bore, I started to believe that this movie may be out of Wright’s wheelhouse altogether. To me, judging by the nutty and violent confrontations that happen later in the film (featuring a shockingly over-the-top performance by Stephen McHattie), Wright may be someone who needs more visuals in order to convey a story. That’s okay, but Awakening the Zodiac just isn’t right for Wright – he needs the next Sinister sequel.
If this theory is true, then this miscalculated film can be forgiven and forgotten. However, general moviegoing audiences with higher expectations may not be so understanding.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie