"Tracking a Mysterious Serial Killer"
What You Need To Know:
The performances in ZODIAC are excellent. Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey, Jr., are brilliant as the two journalists, as are Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards as the two detectives. John Carroll Lynch is absolutely chilling as one of the prime suspects. Though overlong and containing rough language and strong violence, the movie's focus is a moral one that centers on stopping a demonic killer who terrorizes the public.
(BB, H, PP, LLL, VV, S, A, DD, M) Strong moral worldview but in a sometimes humanist setting about the hunt for an evil, demonic serial killer by a dedicated group of American policemen and two dedicated newspaper reporters, one of whom works as a cartoonist and, though divorced, lives a clean life, which is remarkable to his cynical colleagues; about 32 mostly strong obscenities, 11 strong profanities and two light profanities; strong violence with some blood includes several shootings, masked killer ties two victims up before stabbing them (the scary stabbing mostly occurs off screen), a few victims escape death, man appears to have blood on his hands, strips of shirt shown with blood, killer seriously threatens to throw woman's baby out the window before he kills her but she escapes and he doesn't harm baby, a scary scene in a basement with a possible serial killer, and killer threatens in a letter to kill children on a school bus and writes about the joy of killing people; no implied or depicted sex scenes, but some light sexual references such as young married woman driving young man takes car to lover's lane but they are shot before anything happens, talk about one adult suspect going to jail for "touching" boys in school and mention of the word "pedophile," but nothing explicit, crude, or graphic; no nudity; alcohol use and talk about one man's eventual drinking and drug problem; smoking, man snorts cocaine and man has some kind of oxygen or gas bottle with him which he is using through a clear mask while drinking in a bar (it could be oxygen since movie later reveals man had emphysema); and, deception, kidnapping, conceited and troubled killer taunts police, man says he is divorced, and conflict between reporter and police.
ZODIAC is more of a mystery thriller about the Zodiac serial killer in Northern California during the late 1960s and early 1970s. It doesn’t have the graphic violence and crude sexual content of other serial killer movies, such as the Hannibal Lecter movies. As such, it is a riveting, though overlong, detective thriller for mature audiences.
Based on a real book, ZODIAC focuses on two of the main detectives tracking the killer and two journalists in San Francisco who become obsessed with the case. The authorities realize early on that they’re dealing with a serial killer, because the killer writes letters with cryptic messages to local newspapers. After killing two people and seriously wounding two others in rural Northern California, the killer murders a taxi driver in Frisco.
In the letters to the newspapers, the killer calls himself Zodiac, talks about his urge to kill and threatens to kill children on a school bus. A 1966 murder in Southern California is linked to him, which sets the whole state of California on edge. One suspect after another is examined by the two detectives and one of the journalists, Robert Graysmith. Graysmith goes on his own personal crusade to unmask the killer, a crusade that lasts years and almost destroys his relationship with his family. The journalist, who mostly worked as a cartoonist, eventually writes a book on the case, which has been adapted into this movie.
The performances in ZODIAC are excellent. Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey, Jr., are brilliant as the two journalists, as are Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards as the two Frisco detectives. John Carroll Lynch is absolutely chilling as one of the prime suspects.
Though overlong and, hence, perhaps dull to modern, younger viewers not used to the slower pace of the mystery genre, the riveting story still should draw most thriller fans into its web of shocking events and tantalizing clues. In fact, several scary scenes will have most viewers on the edge of their seats. Best of all, despite rough language, some drug references, strong violence, and references to putting a pedophile in jail, the movie’s focus is a moral one that centers on finding, stopping and bringing to justice a demonic, evil killer who terrorizes the public.
Another problem with such a movie, even a good one like this, is that it could encourage some copycat killers and deranged non-violent people who want the possible fame and notoriety that may come from being identified with the Zodiac case. The movie avoids, however, being a salacious work that overtly encourages such terrible acts. Thus, it deserves an extreme caution rather than an unacceptable rating. The movie’s restraint is commendable, but its use of strong obscenities and strong profanities is not.