The Caveman's Valentine (2001)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Paranoid Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Urban Drama  |   Release Date - Mar 2, 2001 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Kasi Lemmons' follow-up to her critical darling Eve's Bayou is a redemption tale of a musician turned homeless cave dweller turned amateur detective, and it proceeds with the same kind of ranting logic espoused by Samuel L. Jackson's title character. That is to say, not very clearly, and with paranoid concerns, that not everyone will care about or understand. It's a visually ambitious film, as Jackson's wonderfully named Romulus Ledbetter sees bursts of light from building tops (and winged demons in his head, courtesy of schizophrenia), which he blames on an imagined omnipresent villain named Stuyvesant. But these touches and an engaging performance from Jackson, framed memorably by dreadlocks that hang down the length of his back, are not enough to elevate the film into the mystical realm Lemmons created in Eve's Bayou. Underneath is a relatively standard whodunnit with uninteresting payoffs and obvious psychological motivators. The side story of Ledbetter trying to reconcile with his exasperated daughter doesn't interest much, either. What comment Lemmons and screenwriter George D. Green may have about real-world photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, on whom Colm Feore's shady artist David Leppenraub seems to be based, remains as murky as anything else. The Caveman's Valentine is a good example of a talented sophomore director unable to find material equal to that of her debut, leading her to misapply interesting storytelling techniques to a story that's beneath them.