Denzel Washington knows a thing or two (or ten) about kicking ass. While it hasn’t been a prerequisite for all of his films, it’s been a theme of enough of them. He’s found himself having to free hostages, fight off mafia members, take down terrorists, and most of the other pieces that come with starring in an action movie here and there. Well, now one of his more unique flicks with a heavy action bent is crushing it on streaming. That’s right, The Book of Eli is currently the third-most watched movie on HBO Max in the United States this week.
2010’s The Book of Eli is a post-apocalyptic movie that stars Denzel Washington as the titular character who’s carrying the titular publication. Set 30 or so years after a nuclear has wiped a better part of the human race, the United States has become a barren wasteland run by warlords who own the water and the roads. Washington’s Eli is a traveler, looking to make his way across the plains and we soon learn he has a particular set of skills that have helped him survive this long on his own. Here, check out the trailer for The Book of Eli:
Denzel Washington is in possession of what is now the hottest ticket item on the planet, a copy of The Bible. With heavy religious overtones and a washed-out sepia-infused landscape, The Book of Eli follows the character as he encounters all manner of evil in the world that’s leftover. It’s a dark film playing on Washington’s performance as a solo traveler who has a singular purpose: protect the book at all costs. As an action film goes, there’s most of what you want in terms of intensity with a solid underpinning of a story even if it gets a bit heavy-handed at times.
Joining Denzel Washington in the cast are a couple of key players. Gary Oldman plays Carnegie, a local warlord who becomes obsessed with getting his hands on the book. He has the weight and firepower to control the region and much of the action centers around Eli having to essentially fight his way across the landscape. Then there’s Mila Kunis as Solara, a young woman he meets in town and continues on with him. She becomes something of a protege while he also works to protect her.
The Book of Eli had considerable hype around it when it came out more than a decade ago. Casting Denzel Washington in a wide-release action movie wasn’t a new thing, but this one had a bunch of dollars backing it. The $80 million dollar budget represented a major investment and there was the thought that Denzel plus the premise would be a massive hit. It didn’t totally end up being the case. The film wasn’t able to double up on its production money and earned *only* $157 million at the box office. For a film this size, that’s something of a disappointment.
And critics weren’t all that kind either. The Book of Eli is sitting at just 46% on Rotten Tomatoes and 53 on Metacritic. In general, reviews favored the performance from Denzel Washington but thought the script was a bit heavy-handed and didn’t offer much in the way of creativity for a somewhat worn-out premise. The Hughes brothers, Allen and Albert, were at the helm after having made waves a decade earlier with Menace II Society and Dead Presidents. But this latest one failed to deliver.
That being said, in terms of a cable rewatch all these years later? The Book of Eli remains a solid watch. With tempered expectations, it is able to hit on a lot of key pieces that make for popcorn movie fare. The action sequences are tight, the backdrop is interesting and Denzel Washington still can fill up the screen in a big way.
He already set pandemic records for his latest box office performance and next up for Denzel Washington is Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. Washington will play Lord Macbeth alongside Frances McDormand. But before you see the guy go all Shakespeare over everyone, check out The Book of Eli on HBO Max. It holds up fine despite some of the critical issues it encountered on the first release.