Zeros and Ones (2021) – Film Review
Director: Abel Ferrara
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Cristina Chiriac, Phil Neilson
By Roger Crow
It’s rare to see any actor introduce a film these days. However, in a heartfelt short video, Ethan Hawke does just that, explaining what a fan of Abel Ferrara he is and filmmaking during a pandemic. I keep waiting for a twist or a punchline, but it’s a straightforward intro, which is fine, though I do wonder if we’ll get the same sort of thing from other actors in future, such as Vin Diesel giving a heartfelt explanation of why he decided to shoot Fast and Furious 10 in space.
Anyway, if the news weren’t bleak enough for you, grab yourself some popcorn and settle in for Zeros and Ones, which looks like it was shot by a final year film student who has seen Apocalypse Now too many times.
The plot: called to Rome to stop an imminent terrorist bombing, soldier J.J. (Hawke) desperately seeks news of his imprisoned rebel brother, Justin (also Hawke), who holds knowledge that could thwart the attack.
Navigating the capital’s darkened streets, J.J. races to a series of ominous encounters, hoping to keep the Vatican from being blown to bits.
Hawke gives the sort of scenery-chewing performance that hints of an actor fully committed to a role, and Justin is one of those individuals who looks like he’s on the verge of imploding like a character from Scanners because he’s so intense.
By that point you may be so fed up with the shaky cam flourishes and the visual darkness, as well as the tone of the piece that you’ll need a break. Again it’s another of those movies where the director seems obsessed with gloom. Obviously as any cineaste will tell you, Abel Ferrara is not a guy to helm comedies, as The King of New York and Bad Lieutenant proved.
It’s a powerful, depressing, at times pretentious movie, but Hawke does a fine job in his dual role. IF you can cope with the hugely depressing tone, and the annoying style, then brace yourself and settle in for the duration.
However, if you want to see an unintentionally hilarious thriller that covers similar ground in a similar location, watch Angels and Demons instead, especially the last 10 minutes involving a parachute.
I may have to do just that to cheer myself up.