Romulus (Samuel L. Jackson) lives in a rock formation in Central Park…don’t try calling him homeless, he has his cave and that’s all he wants. By night Romulus fends off the New York winter that has already claimed the lives of many who have no place out of the cold to go, but by day he wanders the streets trying to warn the people about a man named Stuyvesant who seeks to control their lives. In better days Romulus was a concert pianist, hailed as a genius, until the debilitating effects of schizophrenia sent him into his “cave” where Stuyvesant can’t control him.
On Valentine’s Day that year Rom exits his cave for his morning routines and finds a “Valentine from Stuyvesant”, a 20-year-old homeless boy sitting on a limb of a tree…frozen solid. The police (including Rom’s daughter) obviously label it an accidental death like so many others that are happening throughout the city amongst the homeless. Endless rants about Stuyvesant do not move them in the least…but then the deceased’s boyfriend comes to Rom for help saying that his dead friend had been horribly abused by a famous artist, David Leppenraub, and believes Leppenraub came back to kill him.
For Romulus this means action must be taken…an old classmate of his is a close friend of Leppenraub’s and offers an easy way to get close to the man…that is, if Rom can keep control of his mind long enough to uncover the truth.
I’m one of those people who are endlessly fascinated by “nut cases” in all their many forms. I’ve met a few in my life and am sure to meet many more and it never ceases to amaze me the wide variety of afflictions even within the same diagnosis. For this film: diagnosis schizophrenia.
The story grabbed me from the beginning, offering as the main character a man obviously completely off his rocker…yet he makes you wonder from the start just how insane he really is as he is perfectly capable of coherent conversation until the subject runs to anything he can link to Stuyvesant.
Throughout the film the most intriguing scenes to me were those that have been labelled “psycho scenes”, they can be very confusing and bounce around from surreal shots of the moth-seraphs that live in Romulus’ head to perfectly clear scenes that nonetheless leave you to wonder how much the main character is actually saying and what he’s just thinking.
Samuel L. Jackson did an awesome job for his part in this movie and even though I know the surprise ending now I’d still watch this movie over and over just to see his performance. Jackson has typically been cast as a “tough guy” with a few exceptions but in this film does something more akin to his role as Elijah in Unbreakable and does it better than just about anyone else could have.
Unfortunately Jackson’s genius in this movie doesn’t extend to the other actors…it could be that they just weren’t given sufficient chance to show off their talents since the script centers on Jackson with everyone else coming in on the side, or it could be that Jackson’s powerful performance overshadowed everyone else…at any rate the secondary characters were pretty disappointing and two-dimensional for the most part.
The plot itself is somewhat confusing but twisted enough to hold the interest, but it does leave a lot of loose ends. True, you do get to learn what all happened with the dead boy in the tree but very little if anything about the main character’s background or where he ends up after it’s all over.
Overall, despite the deficiencies in the background and secondary characters, I really enjoyed this film and definitely recommend it for anyone who enjoys mystery/drama-type films, especially those who enjoy films pertaining to various mental illnesses.