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  Zeros and Ones Pretending To Blow Up The Vatican
Year: 2021
Director: Abel Ferrara
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Christina Chiriac, Phil Neilson, Valerio Mastandrea, Valeria Correale, Dounia Sichov, Babak Karimi, Korlan Madi, Stephen Gurewitz, Mahmut Sifa Erkaya, Carla Cassola, Anna Ferrara, Salvatore Ruocco, Gianluca Capuana
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: JJ Jericho (Ethan Hawke) arrives in Rome on a mission: his twin brother Justin (also Hawke) has been kidnapped by a terrorist group who plan to blow up The Vatican, or is he part of their master plan in a more organisational capacity? All JJ knows as he walks the nighttime streets of the capital is that he has to prevent a tragedy, and his family member is involved at the heart of it. JJ is a special forces veteran who has some contacts he can meet to get closer to the heart of this conspiracy, starting with a woman who is currently, as the rest of the city is, under curfew thanks to the pandemic increasing the threat of deadly infection. Will he be able to start off his investigation, or will he be dragged in over his head?

Actually, Zeros and Ones doesn't start like that, it starts with Ethan Hawke "as himself" introducing the film via what looks like a Zoom call, telling us how excited he was to work with director Abel Ferrara. That much would appear to be true, as Hawke has always been happy to help out independent filmmakers by lending his star name to their films: sometimes it works out very well for both parties, and sometimes, eh, not so much. Any fan of the actor would be aware of his indie king status, when he's not appearing in larger budget fare to boost the old bank account, and he is more often than not very good value for money, yet quite what this effort would do to his reputation was more of a conundrum, since it was tailored for the Ferrara fans exclusively.

Therefore it was more a Ferrara film featuring Hawke than a Hawke film directed by Ferrara, with all the caveats that brought with it at this stage of the director's career. Self-indulgent needn't be a drawback for a filmmaker with a singular vision, especially if you can get a section of the potential audience to go with you on that, but there was a definite sense of Ferrara preaching to the choir here, assuming anyone watching had any idea of what he was going on about. Various hot button topics were brought up, from religion to terrorism to corrupt establishment, but quite what we were intended to make of them was more of a mystery, as any kind of discussion was reduced to gnomic voiceover pronouncements over some very smeary digital visuals of Lockdown Rome, usually in the dead of night, presumably for extra atmospherics.

Every so often JJ would meet with someone who was supposed to tell him more about the impending catastrophe, but when the Vatican was indeed exploded halfway through the movie, it left the picture with nowhere to go (other than have the viewer ponder if that explosion graphic was really the best available for such a momentous act of vandalism). Ferrara attempted to sex things up by having Hawke pretend to have sex with his wife, a sex slave of Russian gangsters (?) played by Christina Chiriac, but this supposedly forced impregnation (how could they be sure?) played out with him keeping his trousers on and her keeping her underwear on, which could not be assured of success for the gangsters' aims. But in the main, Zeros and One took the form of a lot of shakycam closeups in poor definition video, and when Hawke popped up at the end after having watched this to send us away with a spring in our step, it appeared he had no idea how to react to it either. As an approximation of trying to make sense of a broadsheet newspaper while high on heroin, however, it was convincing. Music by Joe Delia.

[Signature Entertainment presents Zeros and Ones on Digital Platforms 7th March & DVD 4th April 2022.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Abel Ferrara  (1952 - )

Controversial New York director whose films frequently centre around sex, violence and moral redemption, and often feature Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken or Willem Dafoe. Debuted in 1979 with the infamous Driller Killer, in which he also starred, followed by rape-revenge thriller Ms. 45/Angel of Vengeance. Several slick, less distinctive movies followed - Fear City, China Girl and Cat Chaser, as well as work on TV shows Miami Vice and Crime Story.

1990's King of New York was a return to form, while the searing Bad Lieutenant quickly became the most notorious, and perhaps best, film of Ferrara's career. The nineties proved to be the director's busiest decade, as he dabbled in intense psycho-drama (Dangerous Game, The Blackout), gangster movies (The Funeral), sci-fi (Body Snatchers, New Rose Hotel) and horror (The Addiction). He continued to turn in little-seen but interesting work, such as the urban drug drama 'R Xmas and the religious allegory Mary until his higher profile returned with the likes of Welcome to New York and Pasolini.

 
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