The Zodiac

2005, Crime/Mystery & thriller, 1h 32m

31 Reviews 10,000+ Ratings

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critics consensus

The Zodiac turns one of modern history's most enduringly fascinating true crime stories into a forgettable procedural with lackluster production values. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

In this film based on actual events, the quiet community of Vallejo, Calif., is rocked by the random shooting deaths of two teenagers. Inspector Matt Parish (Justin Chambers) is assigned to the case. But, since there's little evidence to go on, his investigation hits a dead end, and his growing frustration takes a toll on his wife (Robin Tunney) and son (Rory Culkin). But when the killer, now known as as the Zodiac, strikes again, Matt becomes obsessed with catching him.

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Critic Reviews for The Zodiac

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (8) | Rotten (23)

Audience Reviews for The Zodiac

  • Mar 19, 2013
    I like how this film is super emphatic about the its being "based on true events", even though it's pretty darn obvious, considering the notoriety of this subject matter, and then it ends up putting together a roster of characters that's all but entirely populated by people they just made up (They even made up the victims' names; curse you, legal issues!). I don't know if the Zodiac Killer is still alive, but this film certainly enlightened me on the fact that Justin Chambers is still alive, which is actually kind of sad, because considering that this panned, lame take on the Zodiac Killer case that no one saw gives Chambers one of his very few main roles, I reckon it's safe to say that his career isn't really going like he probably hoped it would. I reckon he's just glad to be back in the homicide detective gig after "Cold Case", and besides, this film had to get somebody who was a sort-of known actor in the lead role, which should tell you just how cheap this film is, because, come on, we're talking about that one guy from the first season of "Cold Case". Sure, this film has veteran character actor Philip Baker Hall under its belt, but other than that, some of your more notable cast members include Tom Cruise...'s cousin, as well as Macaulay Culkin...'s brother... who isn't Kieran. Shoot, now that I think about it, at this point, Rory may very well be more relevant than Macaulay, because he's certainly made something of a name for himself in the mediocre horror film industry, as further reflected by this film, which is so over-the-top in its "thrills" that it stands as yet another testament to the fact that a whole lot of people are getting pretty carried away with their worrying about a guy who didn't kill but about five people, like, forever ago, then proceeded to make a million threats that he didn't even try to live up to. I love how David Fincher's "Zodiac" from 2007 was honest to the point of tensing things up during the kills, and then kind of barely taking the Zodiac's subsequent threats all that seriously, though that might just be because that two-and-a-half-hour-long, slow thriller can get away with its having only so much tension, seeing as how it was [b]"awesome"[/b] (What, a masterfully-directed David Fincher film? Get out of town... if you don't believe that it can be done!), as opposed to this film, which I would hate to see be two-and-a-half hours and actively slow, seeing as how it's dull enough as it is. So yeah, this film is pretty awful, and yet, with that said, this film isn't without a few strengths, and by strengths, I mean minor complimentary aspects. Man, you know a film is bad when one of the absolute best things you can say about it is its improvable soundtrack, which, for that matter is rarely used, but hey, I've got to give credit where credit is due, and this film's soundtrack's tastes, while not as sharp as plenty of other '60s-set films' soundtracks, are decent as colorful compliments to what little entertainment value there is in this hardly watchable bore, while Michael Suby's score work, though often overbearing and consistently generic, is decent on a musical level, as well as occasionally genuinely complimentary to the effectiveness of this thriller. What further reinforces the considerably slim quantity of effective moments in this fall-flat psycho "thriller" are stylistic choices within Alexander Bulkley's direction that are, in fact, reasonably commendable, for although most of Bulkley's particularly stylish touches are annoyingly overbearing, if not simply forced, there are, in fact, occasions in which Bulkley gets a tight enough grip on photography and editing to pinch nerves. So yeah, on the off chance you haven't quite caught on by now, I'm stretching more than a yoga coach to find something worthy of compliment within this utter piece of garbage, so if you're expecting to see what I see, well then, pal, you should probably think about not counting your chickens before they hatch. Still, those about as willing as you can be to stick with this disaster are likely to find some highlights, - no matter how scarce they are in quantity - spawned from the ambition that may be overbearing, but sometimes breathes a bit of inspiration into things, and is, well, undeniably understandable. As reflected by the fact that it went on to spawn a great film, this subject matter is promising, and no matter how badly misguided this execution of an intriguing story concept is, you can see a bit of potential, not just within the basic subject matter, but within this film's concept of fabricating the Zodiac Killer case. Now, I'm not saying that bulling up the Zodiac case could ever come close to being a great idea, but this film isn't aiming to be the sprawling, highly factual dialogue thriller that is David Fincher's infinitely superior 2007 show-stopper, but instead an entertainment piece with the intention to put the idea of romanticizing its intriguing subject matter to further augment intrigue. Needless to say, when it came time for this film to put its money where its mouth it, it misfired tremendously, for although this film's high points are hard to deny, the final product is, on the whole, nothing short of awful, with mere mediocrity looming over some of its strongest aspects, including the acting department. Sure, there are a few decent spots in this film's acting department, with Rory Culkin being particularly decent... I guess as the slightly eccentric son of our protagonist (What, a Culkin doing a decent job of playing a weird-seeming kid? That's almost as outrageous as a masterfully-directed David Fincher film!), but on the whole, whether it be because of the bad writing or simply a lack of acting inspiration, the acting in this film goes as low as awful, and as high as mediocre, with leading man Justin Chambers being, not necessarily bad, but kind of bland as this film's protagonist. Outside of the aforementioned decent occasions, the acting in this film is mediocre at best, and mighty bad at worst, so it's not like you can expect this film to at least be carried by its performances, which isn't to say that the performers are entirely to blame for their not being able to sustain your investment, as I can see it being a fierce challenge to make writers Alexander and Kelley Buckley's material sound good. The Buckleys' script is nothing short of a mess, with weak dialogue and colorless characterization, all backed by aimless plotting that is still just eventful enough for the final product to have the opportunity to drench every last bit of its plotting in overwhelming genericism that reflects the embarassing laziness within the execution of this story concept, while Alexander Buckley's direction, on the other hand, reflects just how overbearingly overambitious this misfire is through some serious subtlety issues. The film very rarely disarms intensity within its atmosphere, and such consistent and overt atmosphere reinforcing just doesn't gel with a minimalist thriller of this type, to the point of making most every moment that doesn't involve a slaying feel cheesily manipulative, and it doesn't help that Buckley will have the guts to toss in an overbearingly over-the-top stylistic choice that, in comparison with the stylistic touches that are genuinely reasonably effective, is abundant in quantity, perhaps in a desperate attempt to obscure the fact that this film isn't even shot well. If Buckley does nothing else to keep up the film's exhausting and generally fall-flat foward momentum, he thins out almost every moment of slow-down to the point of dissipation, thus leaving the film to monotonously slapdash along with only so much focus on exposition, and too much focus on thrills that shouldn't even be there and, in most cases, aren't that. As exhaustingly frantic as this overbearingly busy thriller is, one of the final product's biggest problems is its simply being just too blasted dull, never to where it slips into the dreaded state of being truly tediously boring, but certainly to the point of losing you, time and again, while still sustaining just enough of your attention for you to have the chance to meditate upon the film's other flaws, of which there are way too many to count. This film could have held back and simply fallen flat as too bland to be bad, but mediocrity isn't enough for this trainwreck, which is too mediocrely-acted, poorly-written, exhaustingly overambition and overdone, and dull to be worthy of a little window in your life, so if you've about an hour-and-a-half to yourself to check out the story of the Zodiac Killer, then I would recommend that you try to expand that window and check out 2007's "Zodiac", because this film is nothing short of a colossal disaster. Overall, the music in this film is alright I guess, being somewhat supplementary to entertainment value, while the occasional effective moment in tension, - complimented by the occasional nifty stylistic choice - and value within this film's subject matter could have made this film decent, something that the final product is anything but, as their is too much mediocrity in the acting department, trite laziness in the writing department, and overbearingness, overstylizing, overambition and dullness within the direction departments for Alexander Bulkley's "The Zodiac" to be any better than an awful misfire of a forgettable thriller that can barely be forgotten quickly enough. 1.25/5 - Awful
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Mar 08, 2011
    Not as in-depth or graphic as David Fincher's version of the Vallejo killings and this one got a little boring at times too. But overall I thought it was ok and watchable at least. I do enjoy fact-based serial killer movies and I've seen a fair few and this was far from being the worst of them.
    Lee ? Super Reviewer
  • Feb 24, 2008
    Pretty cut and dry, and nothing new is presented - ending on such a low, anti-climatic note. Justin Chambers does a nice job in the lead role, and shows that he could handle other leading roles. Some other supporting actors such as Robin Tunney make the film slightly less annoying. There's nothing bad about the movie it just doesn't offer anything new about the case, no twists, it doesn't even offer any insight on who might have been the Zodiac Killer - on the other hand I found the movie to focus more on the <i>multiple Zodiacs</i> possibility. The Zodiac quote at the end of the of the film was a nice touch, gearing the viewer to the next film the <i><a href="http://www.flixster.com/movie/zodiac">Zodiac</a></i>. <b>LA Weekly | Tim Grierson</b><br /><i>The Zodiac regurgitates a lifetime of police-thriller conventions, adding an aura of laughable solemnity in the hope of making the plot seem less banal.</i>
    ?? ? Super Reviewer
  • Feb 10, 2008
    Not to be confused with the David Fincher masterpiece, THE Zodiac is utter shit. It apes said genius's work in the most generic and unapologetic of ways--all from the "let's get this guy" cop pep talk down to the cliched "problems at home when the cop becomes obsessed with his work and misses his own birthday" scene. I can't really think of anything good to say about this movie aside from Robin Tunney's fleeting cuteness. I might not have minded it if I was sideways when I saw it, but since I was sober this movie is puke. Chunky, chunky puke.
    Michael G Super Reviewer

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