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The Caveman's Valentine (2001)



Average Rating: 5.2/10
Reviews Counted: 83
Fresh: 38 | Rotten: 45

The Caveman's Valentine has an intriguing premise, but the film falls flat under the weight of its ambition.


Average Rating: 4.5/10
Critic Reviews: 29
Fresh: 10 | Rotten: 19

The Caveman's Valentine has an intriguing premise, but the film falls flat under the weight of its ambition.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.2/5
User Ratings: 6,124

My Rating

Movie Info

A man struggles back from madness to avenge the death of someone he knew in an intelligent thriller based on the acclaimed novel by George Dawes Green. Romulus Ledbetter (Samuel L. Jackson) once had a career as an acclaimed concert pianist, a position at the Juilliard School of Music, and a loving wife and children. But Ledbetter's life has been devastated by paranoid schizophrenia; now homeless, Ledbetter wanders the streets of New York City as he rails against Cornelius Gould Stuyvesant, a man


Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense

George Dawes Green

Jul 17, 2001

Universal Pictures

Watch It Now



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All Critics (90) | Top Critics (30) | Fresh (38) | Rotten (45) | DVD (13)

Lemmons creates mesmerizing passages, but she can't bring this one to a fulfilling crescendo.

August 9, 2002
Denver Rocky Mountain News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is a commercial film with limited ambitions.

March 22, 2002 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Burdened by sloppy plot turns and unbelievable characters.

March 16, 2001 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Jackson's convincing portrayal of an untethered psyche scrambling for purchase on the slippery slope of sanity and Lemmons's arresting cinematic vision, in which we see the world through the eyes of a man continually descending into ...madness, is enough.

March 9, 2001 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Intriguing, visually startling.

March 9, 2001 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

What saves the movie from mediocrity is its visual style.

March 9, 2001
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Complex and violent movie -- not for kids.

December 28, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media | Comment (1)
Common Sense Media

A sophomore jinx for Lemmons, an overstuffed drama that fails to satisfy as a murder mystery or as a spiritual redemption saga of a homeless man, disappointingly played by Samuel Jackson (who was misdirected).

May 31, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Remember David Helfgott, the concert pianist who goes mad in Shine? Imagine him in dreadlocks and as the star of a detective thriller, and you have a better understanding of The Caveman's Valentine than the people who made it.

June 11, 2003 Full Review
Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL)

Really not much more than an urban Scooby Doo episode, only Shaggy is black and with far more facial hair.

December 8, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

Jackson struggles mightily with a thankless role which has him doing and saying way too many absurd things.

October 21, 2002 Full Review Source: San Diego Metropolitan
San Diego Metropolitan

Samuel L. Jackson is awesome...this movie isn't.

July 9, 2002 Full Review

A few great and original developments.

March 31, 2002 Full Review Source: Goatdog's Movies
Goatdog's Movies

It's unfortunate that all this talent is misplaced on what is, essentially, a contrived mystery.

February 26, 2002 Full Review Source: Mark Reviews Movies
Mark Reviews Movies

The Caveman's Valentine is a stylistically bold and bracingly ingenious thriller that grabs your attention, quickens your pulse -- and, when you least expect it, touches your heart.

October 30, 2001 Full Review Source: The Moving Picture Show
The Moving Picture Show

Though not as brilliant as Eve's Bayou, The Caveman's Valentine represents an admirable sophomore effort, and a terrific showcase for Samuel L. Jackson.

October 24, 2001 Full Review Source: Flipside Movie Emporium
Flipside Movie Emporium

...not enough sustained mystery or suspense for a good crime thriller and not enough unique insights or perceptions for a good character study.

July 16, 2001
Movie Metropolis

It's a less-than- compelling drama and a much-less- than-compelling murder mystery, and it squanders a first-rate cast.

April 27, 2001 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

The film rests squarely on the capable shoulder of Samuel L. Jackson.

April 2, 2001 Full Review Source:

A compelling, individual drama unlike any you're ever likely to see.

April 2, 2001 Full Review Source: Sacramento News & Review
Sacramento News & Review

The mystery is never as intriguing as the atmosphere.

April 1, 2001 Full Review Source:

Unlike most movies these days, which have very little going on inside them so as not to confuse the audience, The Caveman's Valentine roils with both narrative and cinematic ideas.

March 30, 2001 Full Review Source: Sacramento Bee
Sacramento Bee

The overall conception is grand, daring, challenging. But the details of the story, crucial in a picture that's at least partly a mystery, remain a tangled blur.

March 30, 2001
Charlotte Observer

A novel twist on a genre that seems always to be in a process of reinvention.

March 30, 2001 Full Review Source: Kansas City Star
Kansas City Star

Audience Reviews for The Caveman's Valentine

Romulus Ledbetter: I got freezing temperatures all over my brain. And I got legends of angels up there! Like little moths, and they'll beat the hell out of you with their wings! 

"Inside a tortured mind... The clues that lead to a killer."

This weird crime thriller is just as schizophrenic as its character Romulus. I really don't know exactly what to think about it. As of now, all I really know is that I didn't enjoy it. I wasn't particularly thrilled by the story, nor was I enamored by the style. It was also maybe the first time I have seen Samuel L. Jackson in a movie, and didn't love his performance. His acting was more than just schizophrenic, it was off the wall and over the top. I'm guessing that's what the director wanted because the whole movie came off like that as well. It had all the makings to be a truly intelligent thriller. I liked the initial idea for the movie, but by the thirty minute mark, I was less then thrilled by what was going on. By the hour mark, I knew this wasn't going to be good. And by the hour and a half mark, I really just didn't care anymore. 

Romulus is a genius musician who attended Juilliard. Now he lives in a cave in a New York City park. He's also crazy as fuck, seeing images and talking to his ex-wife like she is present. He also has a variety of crazy theories. When he finds a frozen corpse in a tree outside of his cave, he starts expressing what he thinks happened, to the police; one of which is his daughter. Obviously they think he is crazy. He decides to try to investigate what is going on by himself. 

The Caveman's Valentine isn't an unwatchable movie, it's just one that I couldn't particularly get into and enjoy. I normally can enjoy these psychological, mind fuck movies, but this one was either too much or too little. I haven't really decided yet. I still can't really organize my thoughts on this one. Maybe I'll revisit it in a few years and I'll like it. Or maybe I will realize why I disliked it to the extreme of which I did, because normally like a movie or not; I know exactly why. This one... not so much.
July 12, 2012
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

Romulus Ledbetter: Sheila, what are you doing here?
Sheila: Watching you make a fool of yourself. What are YOU doing here?
Romulus Ledbetter: I have to prove Leppenraub is guilty.
Sheila: Prove to who?
Romulus Ledbetter: To the world. To... to Lulu.
Sheila: Lulu needs a father, not some psycho Sherlock Holmes.

A mystery featuring Samuel L. Jackson as a deadlocked, delusional, homeless man. The plot of the film is structured like a film noir, which means I get to use the phrase: Delusional Noir. The story is okay, but Jackson gives a fine performance.

Bob: What do you play?
Romulus Ledbetter: My skull.

Jackson stars as Romulus Ledbetter, a brilliant musician who is currently delusional. Living in a cave in Central Park, believing a man on the top the Chrysler Building is plotting against him. Romulus doesn't have it easy. Things are made worse once Romulus discovers a frozen body in his tree, outside his cave one morning. While the police, which includes his daughter, Lulu, pass the body off as an unfortunate homeless victim of weather, Romulus suspects foul play and some interesting connections get him access to the art/photography scene, where he can do some investigating of his own. And if Romulus can just keep it together long enough, he may stumble upon what actually happened.

The character of Romulus is the most important factor in this film. Jackson has to appropriately balance the antics of a delusional person, making him both sympathetic and believable to an extent. While Jackson is completely solid in the role, I would have liked it a little more if there was the possibility that Romulus could be wrong about the whole thing.

The story of the film is interesting, but it drags a bit and the overall arc isn't entirely original. However, with such a peculiar lead role, it does stay fresh enough.

Romulus Ledbetter: I have flocks of angels in my head and that'll beat you down with their wings!
September 10, 2009

Super Reviewer

I very much like the idea of this film, it plays on a different perspective and shows graphically the thoughts of SLJ's character through the way he sees it. I don?t, however, think the storyline was adequate enough to suit the plot.

SLJ acted ok at times and at others perhaps a little over the top.

Nothing special and a bit of an anti climax.
April 23, 2009

Super Reviewer

Quite curious, but is clearly missing something.
August 13, 2007

Super Reviewer

    1. Romulus Ledbetter: I'm not homeless. I live in a cave.
    – Submitted by Ann A (19 months ago)
View all quotes (1)

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