Los Angeles Times

Fast-Paised review: 'Zodiac'

A reporter (Robert Downey, Jr.), a cop (Mark Ruffalo) and an editorial cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal) all become sucked into the investigation of the Zodiac killer, who committed seemingly random murders in California in the '60s and '70s. The film is based on accounts written by the cartoonist, Robert Graysmith.

Big question: Can director David Fincher ("Se7en," "Fight Club") bring this unsolved case to life?

Catch it: The stretched-out, two-and-a-half-hour-plus narrative is totally appropriate, as Fincher takes a lighter tone than usual and turns "Zodiac" into a perfectly elongated look at police operations and news judgment instead of just a formulaic serial killer story. The movie's sense of humor about jurisdiction and procedure means you'll laugh more than you'll jump, but when "Zodiac" tightens up, you won't be able to move.

Skip it: If you have no appreciation for nostalgia. Maybe we're alone, but seeing Paul Avery (Downey Jr.) with the original version of "Pong" makes us want to break out the Atari!

Bottom line: The film's continuous jumps in time can be a bit awkward--by its end more than two decades have been covered with multi-year gaps scattered throughout--but no worries. The unhurried "Zodiac" is a smart, entertaining and realistic chronicle of an investigation's life and the death that spread from the lives of victims to the personal lives of those who tried to solve the case. The characters' need to know the truth is contagious, and you'll leave the theater feeling inquisitive and desperate to read the book.

Bonus: Think real men only drink stuff like beer and scotch? Graysmith and Avery prove that two grown guys can have a perfectly masculine night out downing fruity blue drinks with umbrellas in them! Of course, doing it while chasing a murderer does balance things out.

Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.



Directed by David Fincher; screenplay by James Vanderbilt, based on the books "Zodiac" and "Zodiac Unmasked" by Robert Graysmith; cinematography by Harris Savides; edited by Angus Wall; production design by Donald Graham Burt; music by David Shire; produced by Mike Medavoy, Arnold W. Messer, Bradley J. Fischer, James Vanderbilt and Cean Chaffin. A Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 2:36. MPAA rating: R (for some strong killings, language, drug material and brief sexual images).

Robert Graysmith - Jake Gyllenhaal

Dave Toschi - Mark Ruffalo

Paul Avery - Robert Downey Jr.

Bill Armstrong - Anthony Edwards

Melvin Belli - Brian Cox

Melanie - Chloe Sevigny

Arthur Leigh Allen - John Carroll Lynch

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