Reservation Road

Acting as good as it can get.

"Thus conscience does make cowards of us all." Hamlet

Conscience and coincidence collide in a film that should have been better given the Shakespearean themes and melodramatic fury that rolls in after a catastrophe.

My ride on the Reservation Road was smooth and scenic for the first half hour or so: A young boy has been killed by hit-and-runner Dwight (Mark Ruffalo). Parents Ethan (Joaquin Phoenix) and Grace (Jennifer Connelly) go through some realistic grieving and anger with in an average script.

I lost my way as soon as contrived coincidences begin piling up such as Ethan hiring Dwight as his attorney to put heat on the authorities to find the murderer, who happens to be Dwight. Where I was nodding in approval at the realism, I began groaning in dismay at the contrivances that come faster than the Death-Wish rage eventually consuming Ethan.

This righteous revenge thriller, therefore, has no real surprises, just its coincidences and a growing realization that, like Hamlet, Ethan may be slipping into madness, which if true, mitigates our sympathy for the criminal and becomes discomfort for his emerging insanity. All of this is potboiler stuff held at bay by bearded, Volvo-driving college professor Ethan, who should know better about the limits of local sheriff investigations and the foolishness of vigilantism.

The chance that you, dear reader, might be annoyed by the expert but almost overwrought acting and clich?d plot is great. So get out your aesthetic GPS and find a better road than one on which you will have reservations.