But be warned, this isn’t “Dead Poets Society” or “Before Sunset.”
At one point during this enigmatic movie, a woman (Valeria Correale) asks J.J. Jericho (Hawke), a soldier who spends much of his time roaming the empty streets of Rome, “Have you figured out what you’re doing in my country?”
“Working on it,” he replies.
J.J. may also be working on understating the point of this movie. I know I am.
Jericho is an American soldier in Italy on the hunt for Justin (also Hawke), his revolutionary twin brother. Justin, who is prone to incomprehensible pontification and breaking into song, is suspected of masterminding a plan to blow up the Vatican, but now he has gone missing.
On his search J.J., also no stranger to odd verbal blurtings–“Jesus was just another soldier,” he says, “but on whose side?”—is told his brother is dead. Or that he’s in jail. And so, he continues his lonely mission through empty streets, deserted parks and shadowy alleyways.
Ferrara takes advantage of the severe Italian COVID lockdown to shoot in the abovementioned vacated spaces, and that adds to the film’s sense of unease but that’s about all there is in this impenetrable, repetitive movie.
Hawke does what he can to lift J.J. and Justin off the page, but the script only offers underdeveloped, one note characters for him and his gravelly voice to inhabit. As such, J.J.’s quest and Justin’s cause offer no emotional engagement with the audience.
“Zeros and Ones” is an odd film. It is bookended by Hawke who provides and intro, talking about how much he’s always wanted to work with Ferrara, and a prologue of a sort that begins with the actor saying that when Ferrara gave him the script, “I really didn’t understand a word of it but I really liked it.”
He liked it. I didn’t, but to each his own. An arthouse thriller of a sort, it isn’t concerned with the niceties of story or characters. It’s a kinetic exercise in abstruseness, one that conjures up a feeling of unease but little else.