Right off the bat, I'm going to have to confess that this review may not turn out to be my best. The fact of the matter is, this was not a movie that sucked me in, its ideas have been done before, but better, and it's just plain too long and boring for what it's trying to be. That's something I hate to admit to when Denzel is involved, as I consider him one of the finest actors in Hollywood, but it's sadly true. There is just nothing particularly special about this one.
It all opens in 1990 where we see a girl being chased. She manages to run towards an oncoming transport truck and flag it down, thus rescuing her from her pursuer. So we get that there's some creepy guy on the loose and our first victim isn't even a mood-setting victim. Fast-forward a bit to Kern County, LA, where deputy sheriff Joe "Deke" Deacon (Denzel Washington) is called to collect evidence for a recent murder. Deacon soon accompanies new lead detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) to a fresh murder scene, where he finds similarities between this murder and one he was unable to solve during his time as a former LA sheriff's detective.
Before long, the pair end up questioning one Albert Sparma (Jared Leto), a prime suspect in the murders who works at a repair shop. As the FBI starts to take things over, the detectives find themselves up against the clock even more so. Further to that, will they be able to solve these grizzly murder cases and find their killer without it affecting Deacon's performance? Or indeed, is Deacon the one we have to be worried about to begin with? The film is fairly reminiscent of 'Seven' and/or 'The Bone Collector' from my perspective - but also, from my perspective, both of those movies offer a lot more than this. While the aforementioned films consist of great suspense and disturbing imagery, this one tries, but manages it to a much lesser extent.
My final impressions of this one were simply that it felt too long for what it needed to do, I've seen better movies within the genre, and this is a lot more talking than anything else. There's not a whole lot here that gives you an "edge-of-your-seat" perspective, and I would say it would be worth waiting out the current rental cost so as to stream it for free. If you're into the whole dark and disturbing detective thing, it works okay, but I'd liken it more to a 3-part TV miniseries than a movie made for big screen appreciation. Though it has shadows of movies like 'Seven', there's nothing that stands out about it apart from perhaps the performances. That actually brings me to my next point, because I don't necessarily mean that in a good way.
In a movie with a cast that consists of Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto, the only one who really stands out is Rami Malek. Denzel seems to have taken a voluntary step down, and it feels like this might be a "paycheck" movie for the man. He's still charming as ever, but the writing has him sleepwalking through most of this. As for Leto, I think there's still too many shades of his Joker here, and that just turns me away altogether. He's always been incredibly hit-or-miss for me, and never truly a personal favorite. Malek, on the other hand, really seems to have come into his own after his portrayal of Freddie Mercury, and it's almost as if we're seeing Denzel pass the torch from solid A-lister to rookie A-lister. It's interesting, but you do kind of wonder how a movie starring Denzel does not have Denzel carrying it on his shoulders.
So, if you're super curious about this one, I'm not gonna sit here and try to steer you away from watching it. I would, however, encourage you to wait it out so that at the very least it might be less costly. In the days of the video store, this would be the equivalent of me suggesting renting it from the video store when it comes out, as opposed to paying to see it on the big screen. There's just nothing special about it that stands out, and despite its best efforts, it's just a bit of a snooze-fest. It may manage to capture someone else's attention better than mine, but this one is reserved for those who get a kick out of detective movies where the conversation takes a front seat, leaving the action and overall suspense in the back. It does hurt to give a Denzel Washington movie a poor rating, but I suppose these things are eventually bound to happen.