David S. Goyer's directorial debut, Zigzag, is a warm and well-acted, but muddled drama. While the contrivances of the plot may have worked in Landon J. Napoleon's first-person novel, Goyer is unable to capture them as effectively without the main character's distinctive point-of-view narration. The familiar tropes the film runs through (including a robbery, a nasty loan shark, a dying mentor, and a hooker with a heart of gold) need to be relayed completely from the unique perspective of the lead character (as they are in the novel) in order to seem fresh. There are also a few scenes that seem out of place. For example, an incident involving Zigzag (Sam Jones III) and his schoolteacher (Elizabeth Peña, who only appears in this one scene), goes nowhere. But the film has many moments that are touching and funny, particularly in the quieter scenes between Sam Jones III as Zigzag and John Leguizamo as his Big Brother, Singer. Jones does a fine job in a challenging role as an autistic teen who gets into more trouble than he can handle, and Leguizamo is excellent in a very sympathetic turn as his only friend. In contrast to their subtly effective work, Oliver Platt gives an amusingly over-the-top performance as Zigzag's loudmouthed boss. Despite the shortcomings of its plot, Zigzag is worth seeing for its solid performances and engaging characters.
by Josh Ralske review