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Deja Vu

For nearly an hour, director Tony Scott's Deja Vu (2007) is a fairly conventional crime thriller. It opens at 10:50 a.m. on Fat Tuesday, as a New Orleans ferry packed with Navy sailors explodes — producing the sort of gorgeously photographed fireball you only find in Jerry Bruckheimer movies (and killing 500). Enter Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington), an ATF agent with a preternatural gift for crime-scene analysis. When the mutilated body of a young woman named Claire (Paula Patton) washes up near the ferry, Doug's Spidey-sense starts tingling. And things start getting weird. As he investigates Claire's death, Doug finds a cryptic message. Even stranger, his fingerprints and DNA are all over her apartment. And then, suddenly, his investigation takes a negative-G turn into sci-fi. Without spoiling too much, let's just say the feds have cooked up some funky new technology — sort of an Einstein-Rosen variation on an earlier Scott flick, Enemy of the State. And that technology gives police a… special relationship with four-day-old events. It's easy to love how scrappy the newfangled technology is in Deja Vu — it produces video footage that uses the editing tricks of Scott's incoherent previous movie, Domino, while keeping those tricks far, far away from the larger story. The scrappiness extends to Adam Goldberg, who's funny as an addled, fast-talking scientist; with his shaggy hair, full beard, and intense glare, he looks a bit like an extremely hip gibbon. In fact, the movie's biggest charm is its unpredictable, offbeat tone — not just in the larger mystery, but also in unscripted moments where Washington suddenly breaks out in big, goofy laughs, or in an interrogation scene where Jim Caviezel reveals that he's pretty good at finding new variations on the psycho with strange patriotic notions. And the movie actually finds a new variation on the car chase — with Doug tearing up New Orleans in a Hummer as he wears video headgear that makes him the ultimate distracted driver. But Deja Vu has one problem: The script (by Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio) is only really clever some of the time. Some of the rest of the time, as Doug revisits the first hour's crime scenes, you find yourself asking questions like, "Why give up on that whole note-passing plan after one try?" or "Wouldn't flagging down a cop be a really great, life-saving idea right about now?" The questions don't hurt the entertainment in the short term — the movie's actually a lot of fun for being so relentlessly grim — but they hurt your brain in the long term.

Buena Vista's DVD release of Deja Vu offers a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. A "Surveillance Window" feature offers four short behind-the-scenes featurettes, presented on-the-fly during the movie (but not accessible from the menu). Also on hand are five deleted scenes and three extended scenes, all with optional commentary by director Tony Scott and "play all" options. Keep-case.
Mike Russell

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