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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Zigzag (2002)

"I wanted to ask Singer: How come some things growing inside kill you, and others keep you alive?"
- Zigzag (Sam Jones III)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: July 23, 2002

Stars: John Leguizamo, Sam Jones III, Wesley Snipes
Other Stars: Natasha Lyonne, Oliver Platt, Luke Goss, Sherman Augustus, Michael Greyeyes
Director: David S. Goyer

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: R for strong language and sexual content, elements of drugs and violence
Run Time: 01h:40m:56s
Release Date: July 09, 2002
UPC: 043396076334
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B BB+B+ C+

DVD Review

Gliding down the street on his bicycle, Zigzag's internal thoughts flow quickly through his brain with decent clarity. Upon his arrival at the restaurant, however, his external actions present the appearance of a slow, unintelligent boy. Other employees in the kitchen hurl nasty insults and cruelly mimic his peculiar movements. Their barbs are only one of numerous obstacles that make life more difficult for Zigzag every day. When he reaches his dish area, however, everything slows down within his mind, and all that matters is the task at hand.

Zigzag contains numerous elements of a clichéd, sappy movie-of-the-week. It presents the slow teenager with special abilities, his terminally ill best friend, an abusive father, and even the hooker with a heart of gold. However, this directorial debut from Blade writer David S. Goyer sidesteps every convention and generates a compelling group of believable characters. Few moments appear manipulative or too unrealistic, and each actor expands a possibly one-note character into something far greater. Based on a novel by Landon J. Napoleon, this effective tale offers a surprising look at human relationships through the eyes of a unique 15-year-old boy.

Produced on a budget of only $2.8 million, the story features an impressive, high-level cast working for a small percentage of their usual salary. Wesley Snipes plays against type as Fletcher, the drug-addicted brutal figure that inspires tremendous fear from his own son. Newcomer Sam Jones (Smallville) makes a stunning debut as young Zigzag, a boy with Asperger Syndrome—a disease similar to autism that makes straightforward communication extremely difficult. Although slowed by this condition, he also has a remarkable skill with numbers. When his father threatens increased beatings if he doesn’t pay $200 for the rent, Zigzag makes a pivotal decision that could threaten his future. After unintentionally spotting the numbers on the safe at his dishwashing job, he steals over $9,000 to pay his father. While understandable given the situation, this single act could lead to disastrous consequences.

John Leguizamo gives almost certainly his best dramatic performance to date as Singer—Zigzag's mentor from the Big Brother program. He cares deeply for the boy, and treats him more like a real brother than a volunteer project. Unfortunately, cancer is quickly overtaking his body, and the doctors can do nothing to prevent the inevitable outcome. When this revelation occurs, the story could quickly veer towards dull sentimentality, but it never becomes too contrived. Although Singer has cancer, it is only one part of his character and does not dominate the scenes. Leguizamo has never played such a straight-arrow character, but he injects tremendous compassion into a normal guy trying to place his friend on the right path. Singer realizes that his time is short, and his efforts focus on preparing Zigzag for life without him.

Situated on the edges of Zigzag's central plot are several talented actors who provide nuanced performances. Oliver Platt (The Three Musketeers, Lake Placid) chews plenty of scenery playing Mr. Walters, a.k.a. The Toad, who insults basically everyone while running the restaurant. Natasha Lyonne makes a fairly brief appearance but adds substance to the kind prostitute archetype. Also noteworthy are the menacing Luke Goss (Blade II) as loan shark Cadillac Tom and Sherman Augustus as the police investigator. Combined with the primary characters, these roles keep the story fresh and help it to avoid the usual route. The overall result is not breathtaking, but it delivers a solid, interesting tale without resorting to tired devices.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Zigzag contains a decent 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer that presents the adolescent boy's story in effective fashion. Low-budget films sometimes receive less-than-adequate DVD treatments, but this disc offers an effective presentation. A few minor defects and a bit of grain does appear, but it is nothing too distracting. Several moments inside Zigzag's head are especially impressive and feature interesting color schemes that shine from this picture.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Grant Lee Phillips' melodic tunes are spotlighted on this decent 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer. When Sadness Soot plays over the closing credits, the song provides an emotional ending to the story. This track does lack a strong presence in the rear speakers, but the sounds presented from the front are strong. The dialogue is clear and easily understandable, and the ambient sounds spring nicely through the sound field. The disc also contains an acceptable 2.0-channel Dolby Surround transfer for viewers without digital home theaters.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Baby Boy, Boyz n' the Hood, The Brothers
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director/writer David S. Goyer
Packaging: AGI Media Packaging
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: This disc features an impressive commentary from writer/director David S. Goyer, who speaks very openly about his debut film. During the credits, he talks specifically about many of the crew members and their background. Few breaks exist on this track, which provides abundant material about this low-budget production and each actor. Goyer spotlights even the most minor person involved and really seems to understand the collaborative process of making a film. His down-to-earth demeanor keeps even the less-fascinating portions worthwhile because the words are so modest. The commentary runs through the ending credits, where Goyer describes the polaroids in enjoyable detail.

The remaining supplements include seven cast and crew filmographies, plus theatrical trailers for this feature and three other pictures. The Zigzag and Boyz 'n the Hood previews appear in full-frame transfers, while Baby Boy and The Brothers utilize the 1.85:1 widescreen format.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

During its brief theatrical run, Zigzag never made it beyond New York City and Los Angeles. It may not be a breakthrough film, but this effective story probably could have found a sizeable audience on the art-house circuit. Hopefully, this DVD will garner viewers who missed out on its original release.


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