The Caveman's Valentine

"OK"

The Caveman's Valentine Review


"The Caveman's Valentine" is a terrible title for an intelligent movie. It sounds like some B-grade fright flick from the 1950s with screaming blondes in strategically torn outfits being abducted by ape men found living on an uncharted island.

As it turns out, this "Caveman's Valentine" is actually a provocative, stylized psychological thriller/murder mystery about a one-time musical genius long ago driven out of a normal life and into homelessness by acute paranoid schizophrenia.

Played with an astonishing array of nuance by cinematic chameleon Samuel L. Jackson, Romulus Ledbetter is a disheveled, massively dreadlocked, ranting but misunderstood madman. His mind has become a tangled, delusional plane where an unseen evil -- an omnipotent adversary with powerful ray weapons -- conspires against him to take over the world.

Now living inside a rocky outcropping in a park on the edge of Manhattan, Romulus (known as "the caveman" to locals) becomes entangled in a mystery that taxes his remaining sanity when the body of a drug-addicted young drifter is found frozen to death in a tree outside his cavern.

Romulus is convinced this kindred lost soul was murdered by a rich, highly controversial photographer (Colm Feore) known for his violent images that featured the dead boy as a model. But the police -- including his own daughter (Aunjanue Ellis) -- won't listen to his raving rationale. He pulls himself together enough to get cleaned up and re-enter the artistic community so he can gain access to the photographer's estate and investigate this unsettling death. But his erratic behavior puts him -- and everyone else -- at great risk.

Helmed by feature sophomore Kasi Lemmons, who made such a lasting impression directing Jackson in "Eve's Bayou," this film isn't as resonant and lucid as her last, but it's no less fascinating while in action.

Lavishly visual and enigmatically atmospheric (the camera often sees the world the way Romulus imagines it), "The Caveman's Valentine" is also blessed with impressive performances that make even incidental characters fleshy and multi-dimensional. Anthony Michael Hall is particularly good (and almost unrecognizable) as a wealthy Fifth Avenue benefactor whose curiosity and white guilt beget Romulus a shave, a hot bath and a new suit.

It's a good thing, too, that "Caveman" has all this going for it, because the strong acting and metrical filmmaking buy the picture several short reprieves from collapsing under the continued strain of gross implausibility.

I didn't buy that the rich guy's dubious wife would happily shave Romulus in one awkward scene, instead of him doing it himself. I scoffed at the photographer's quizzical sister (Ann Magnuson) taking Romulus to bed (although it hadn't occurred to me that she didn't know who he really was). But those problems I could shrug off.

The same cannot be said for the whodunit/how-it-was-done switcheroo finale -- an outcome so impossibly complicated and absurdly staged it would make even Agatha Christie laugh out loud.

This I blame on the script (adapted by George Dawes Green from his novel) because somehow Lemmons' skill behind the camera and Jackson's tormented performance make it worth sitting through just the same.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 105 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 20th September 2001

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 46%
Fresh: 38 Rotten: 45

IMDB: 6.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson as Romulus, as Leppenraub, as Moira, as Lulu, as Sheila

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

Advertisement
The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.