MoviesReviewsZeros and Ones

November 19, 202130/100686 min
Starring
Ethan Hawke, Valerio Mastandrea, Babak Karimi
Written by
Abel Ferrara
Directed by
Abel Ferrara
Run Time. 1h25min
Release Date November 19th, 2021
Overall Score
Rating Summary

Director Abel Ferrara has brought us some unforgettable cinema including the one-two gut punch of Bad Lieutenant and King of New York. While most of us would be enjoying our retirement at his age, he is still out there turning out the gritty films that he is known for. His latest is Zero and Ones a film about a soldier J.J. (Ethan Hawke) stationed in Rome trying to stop a terrorist attack. This is the near future and the world hit by a pandemic as it moves through the streets of an empty Rome. The target is the Vatican and it’s up to J.J. to piece everything together, something he does in one backroom after another.

J.J. documents all of his adventures on a camera and then transmits them to a contact who you assume is doing something with them, even if  that is not made very clear. Stopping the Vatican from being attacked is not the only thing on J.J.s mind, as he is also looking for his brother (also played by Hawke), who is missing and who his superiors believe is part of the group that is planning the very thing that J.J. is there to stop. The area J.J. is searching is in dark and seedy, which includes religious fanatics, oriental drug traffickers, and Russian diplomats who are living a grand life despite the pandemic. Zeros and Ones  is filled with what Ferrara intended to be suspenseful moments, but as they might work at the beginning, start to become too taxing. Add to the fact that if you watch this film at home on a TV, you will have a hard time seeing much of anything as the picture feels like it is dipped in deep blacks, which makes it often hard to see much of what is going on. When you mix in the hand held shots some of which are shot on video, you get a lot of you wondering just exactly is happening which leads to losing interest in trying to figure it out. Ferrara got an itch to get behind the camera while planning his next projects and that is how this one was born and it is safe to say that the events of the past year lead to what Ferrara was trying to convey in this film. It is those fears and paranoias that might be the key to understanding this movie, but because it feels a little all over the place that is difficult to narrow down.

As the story continues it doesn’t get any easier to focus on what is going on, and you never really figure out what J.J. is really trying to do. With it already being a dark story and other parts of the narrative lost in the digital abstraction, Zeros and Ones is a film you don’t want to turn away from, as you might not be able to get back on track to follow to the end. It is that lack of coherence and substance that made me really not care for Zeros and Ones and only hope whatever Ferrara has planned next is better than whatever this ended up being.

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