Zeros and Ones

Written by Alexander Reams

34/100

There are few filmmakers with as big of a head-scratching filmography as Abel Ferrara. A man who broke out into the industry with his highly controversial and provocative Bad Lieutenant, with Harvey Keitel as a coked-up, corrupt, detective. Why? Well to quote the great Joe Swanson “Are you asking an Irish Cop why he’s corrupt”. Ferrara has always been a filmmaker that seemingly makes films by the mantra of “Because we can, and if we can, we do”. (Paraphrasing from Peaky Blinders).

Ferrara’s latest attempt to be politically relevant employs Ethan Hawke as not one, but two characters, identical twin brothers. One is a military man, one is an anarchist/revolutionary. The military man is J.J., arriving in Rome after a terror attack on the Vatican, where everyone is- and tell me if this sounds familiar- wearing masks, overly sanitizing everything, streets are barren of people. Why? It’s not specified, all we know is the terror attack on the Vatican. This is just the beginning of the nonsense. 

Ferrara is known for his very, let’s call it “stylistic” (and not pretentious for pretentious sake), films. From the coked-up insanity of Bad Lieutenant to his most recent collaborations with Willem Dafoe, what I have dubbed “Abel Ferrara’s The House that Willem Built”, a trilogy of films that include Pasolini, Tommaso, and Siberia. All of which center around Ferrara following Dafoe around in whatever character he is playing, some sort of weird elements, and cinematography that, while beautiful, can be visually confusing. An aspect that plagues Zeros and Ones like the supposed sickness that plagues the Vatican. 

The best aspect of this film is Ethan Hawke. Fully immersing himself in both roles as much as he can. He gets the idiosyncrasies of both characters down to a T. Hawke did not fail Ferrara, Ferrara failed Hawke. The script he procured could’ve used a lot more work, fleshing out the characters and the world that Ferrara wanted to create would’ve helped the film work overall. Ferrara failed to lead his technical team in every sense of the word. He took the fantastic cinematographer that is Sean Price Williams and turned his work into an incoherent, ugly mess. This film not only disappointed me but also frustrated me. Instead of trying to be relevant to the times, Ferrara should’ve instead focused on crafting a better film. I truly believe he could’ve made this great, but instead chose to rush production.

Zeros and Ones Trailer

Zeros and Ones is currently available to rent and purchase on most major VOD platforms.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

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