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The Caveman's Valentine

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Caveman's Valentine

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Aunjanue Ellis
Director: Kasi Lemmons
Rated: R
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: March 2001
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Anthony Michael Hall, Tamara Tunie, Jay Rodan, Sean MacMahon, Colm Feore, Ann Magnuson, Damir Andrei, Peter MacNeill

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

In an acting tour de force in THE CAVEMAN'S VALENTINE, Samuel L. Jackson plays Romulus Ledbetter, a paranoid schizophrenic with dirty dreadlocks and standard homeless attire. Romulus, however, is careful to correct people. He isn't a homeless person but a cave dweller. In his cave in a public park, he watches TV without having to plug in any wires. Wherever he walks, there are evil signals coming his way from the top of the nefarious, art deco Chrysler Building in New York. The yellow-colored Y rays are tolerable, but the new green-colored Z rays are pretty sinister.

So what is the story about? It's a murder mystery with Romulus as a blend of the lead characters of SHINE, "Columbo," and THE FISHER KING. A Julliard-trained, classical pianist, Romulus is a highly intelligent and gifted man who has lost his sanity but not his mind. Jackson avoids all of the pitfalls of such a role, delivering a performance that makes Romulus a complex character who deserves our sympathy and our understanding.

Being, well, nuts, no one will pay attention to Romulus when he claims that the guy found frozen in a tree near his cave was murdered. He suspects controversial artist David Leppenraub (Colm Feore) since the murdered young man was one of Leppenraub's models. Leppenraub is fond of making inflammatory remarks about his art. ("All great art is born of suffering." and "If the price of rapture is a mountain of suffering, shouldn't the fee be paid?")

Director Kasi Lemmons, whose only other film was the acclaimed EVE'S BAYOU, has an acute sense of the visual. Romulus's many surrealist dream sequences are particularly compelling, giving us an enhanced awareness of his pain.

My favorite subtheme in the story involves a bankruptcy lawyer named Bob, played with a boyish innocence by Anthony Michael Hall, who provides Romulus with a suit and a shower. Bob's apartment is furnished completely in 1930s decor since that was the "golden era" for his profession.

THE CAVEMAN'S VALENTINE doesn't quite fit into any category. It's a fairly thin mystery but a heck of a character study. Whatever it is, it keeps your eyes glued to the screen from beginning to end. Without Jackson to play the central role, the production would have been hopeless. But he did agree to play it and made it, thereby, a handsome addition to the Jackson collection.

THE CAVEMAN'S VALENTINE runs 1:43. It is rated R for language, some violence and sexuality and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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