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The Lazarus Project

An interesting take on punishment, rehabilitation and redemption that could have done with a more morally complex protagonist.

Ben Garvey (Paul Walker) is a family man with a winsome young daughter, a supportive wife and a job he likes. In the space of a few days his brother arrives, newly released from prison, and Ben loses his job when his bosses find out about his own criminal record. Desperate to preserve his family and help his brother, who is in debt to some dangerous people, he agrees to take part in a robbery. It ends with the deaths of a number of people, including a police officer, and Ben is tried, sentenced to death and executed by lethal injection. But he doesn't die. After the injection, he wakes to find himself working as a groundskeeper at a rural mental hospital. Living in a cabin in the woods, he is troubled by visions of the past and encounters with patients from the hospital. Soon he begins to wonder whether he really did cheat death, and what is happening at the hospital. It's a strong set-up, but the film starts far too slowly and the twist in the tale - though interesting - is obvious from miles away. Possibly out of concern that audience's sympathies would waver, Garvey has been made almost entirely benign, his crimes repeatedly excused by circumstance. Walker plays him more as an all-American Everyman in dire straits than a criminal tormented by guilt. A film that ultimately asks questions about punishment, rehabilitation and redemption could have done with a more morally complex protagonist.

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