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Case Number 14711

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The Lazarus Project

Sony // 2008 // 100 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 10th, 2008

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson got a D- on his Lazarus project.

The Charge

Cheating death is only the beginning.

Opening Statement

Paul Walker (Running Scared) stars as a family man and ex-con who makes a stupid mistake and ends up in an unsatisfying psychological thriller.

Facts of the Case

Walker plays Ben, a decent guy trying to build a successful life with his wife and daughter, while also attempting to move past his former criminal life. Just when he thinks things are coming together, he's informed of his termination at his job. Feeling the pressure, Ben foolishly hooks up with his ex-con brother and allows himself to get roped into a burglary…which goes awry. People end up dead, Ben is sentenced to execution and, just as the lights go out, he finds himself on the outskirts of a psychiatric institution, on his way to his first day as a groundskeeper.


The Evidence

My name is Dave Johnson and I'm a Paul Walker fan. This isn't the first time I've publicly made this confession, but usually those comments were mentioned in the context of a review for one of his action movies—Running Scared, Into the Blue. I've always thought he had an affecting physical presence, in that gnarly frat-boy kind of way. But with the The Lazarus Project, he's handed material that is much more subtle and melodramatic…and I think he handles it deftly.

The fact that Walker often seems to be pitted against the density of the storytelling yet still remains compelling is an even bigger compliment. The Lazarus Project is a supernatural mystery and sticks to its obtuseness for the majority of the runtime. At the 70-minute mark, I still had no fricking clue what was happening. That's a good thing and bad thing, I suppose. Good, because the sense of mystery is prolonged. Bad, because the opaqueness of the narrative may frustrate viewers before they hit the revelations.

Thankfully, after that, the twists begin with verve, and the plot continues to contort right to the end, when the entire measure of Ben's situation is revealed. However, where we finally land, when all is said and done, is unsatisfying, hard-to-believe, and frankly boring.

This is supremely disappointing because the entire film is a build-up to the final revelation. Is Ben in some kind purgatory? Perhaps on the edge of Heaven or Hell? Is he being manipulated by some conspiracy? Without blowing the whole thing, I'll say that the filmmakers opted for the least-interesting and most credibility-stretching option. Maybe it will float your boat, but I was severely let down, essentially making the entire experience a waste of 100 minutes.

I actually lament writing that because I was pulling for The Lazarus Project to work. The atmosphere was perfectly established, the acting was solid, and the pervasive feeling of the unknown this film was drenched in generated some authentic tension. But the misfire reveal proves to be a mortal wound.

The disc is technically sound, featuring a very clean 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and an active 5.1 Dolby Surround mix. Two deleted scenes are it for extras.

Closing Statement

A great set-up, but The Lazarus Project can't stick the landing.

The Verdict

Pass on this one.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 65
Acting: 85
Story: 65
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• English
• French
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Mystery
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes


• IMDb

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