Gardener of Eden


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Gardener of Eden is a darkly comic update of Taxi Driver. If that sounds both odd and ambitious, you're readin' it right, bro.

Adam is a 25-ish slacker whose posse has drifted into dead-end lives since high school. His friends just turned their part-time high school jobs into full-time employment, but Adam took a more complicated route to his deli counter job. He got accepted into a good college, then got kicked out for bringing prostitutes into his dorm room. He then went back to his small town in Jersey and joined his friends in the blue collar world.

Things started going badly for him. On a single day, he lost his job, he watched a sweet old woman die, and his parents kicked him out of the house. He snapped. He got shit-faced and filled with rage, then became determined to beat the hell out of the next man he met. He did just that, and that scene ended with the police pulling him off the battered victim. Then a miracle happened. Instead of going to jail as a menace to the community, he was hailed as a hero. The man he assaulted was a wanted rapist, and Adam attacked him just minutes after his latest rape. Adam was given plaques and reward money. His parents took him back in. Everyone in town wanted to shake his hand. The people of his small town suddenly started treating him like a combination of Brad Pitt and Jesus.

All of this went to his head, and interacted with some confused notions which had already been simmering in there for a while, with the result being that he now fancies himself a comic book hero, a super vigilante who has been chosen by destiny to clean the scum off the streets. He prepares himself for the role, ala Travis Bickle, with fighting lessons and firearms and long rigorous workouts. When he considers himself ready, he starts wandering through his own town in search of crime, but finds little, and manages to accomplish nothing beyond making the police aware that he might be a dangerous nuisance. Frustrated to be a super hero in a town which doesn't need one, he starts heading into the big city every night, wandering through the worst neighborhoods of New York in search of criminals to apprehend.

He gets into some trouble and when it becomes too dangerous for him to return to New York, our super hero turns his focus back to his little town and the only local character worthy of becoming his nemesis: a drug dealer so small-time that he uses his bicycle to deliver the merchandise. The guy is not exactly Doctor Doom, but a super hero needs a super villain and Schwinn-boy is the only available candidate.

There are about five scenes and/or plot elements which are direct references to Taxi Driver, but that doesn't really matter much, because Gardener of Eden is not a rip-off, but an homage, with a completely different attitude and a unique world of its own. The film can turn deadly serious at times, and the plot encompasses some dark themes like the impact of rape on the victim, but mostly it is a comic riff on the vigilante concept. The tone does get darker and darker as the film progresses, but it never loses sight of the fact that its main character is not an animal or a moron, but was and is essentially a nice, intelligent, suburban type of kid with flights of fancy that just happen to land in crazytown. The film remains lighter than Taxi Driver because Adam is a much more likeable and light-hearted fellow than Travis Bickle.

The film has some problems in the middle. A couple of ideas are raised and dropped. A couple of scenes seem to have been isolated from earlier or later scenes which were simply not there, probably lost in the editing process. At one point, I even felt that some of the scenes might have been shown in the wrong order. Fortunately, those things don't matter much in the big picture. The first thirty minutes of the film are entertaining and pretty damned funny, and I got hooked immediately on the storyline and the characters, so I was willing to ride through the rough spots later. And there's more to like. The bike-riding pusher was played with cynical elan by scene-stealing Giovanni Ribisi, and the rivalry between the petty drug dealer and the vigilante was handled with surprising understatement. The film showed remarkably effective restraint in portraying how they settled their differences (or failed to). On balance, I was quite satisfied with the experience until about five minutes before the credits, when the plot suddenly devolved into an unsatisfying, unexpected and somewhat confusing ending. I guess the creators just weren't sure how to get out of the storyline, because the film doesn't really end at all. Although there is a major (and somewhat baffling) dramatic development about two minutes before the closing credits, the events after that make the film seem to be the pilot for a TV series which will feature the continuing adventures of Adam.

The producer and director of this film may surprise you. The producer is about as heavy as heavyweights come these days - superstar Leo DiCaprio. The director is DiCaprio's friend Kevin Connelly, better known as "E" on Entourage. (The guy who plays Turtle on Entourage is in the cast of Gardener of Eden.)

It doesn't look like this film is going anywhere, since it debuted at Tribeca in the Spring of 2007 and has since disappeared for a year and a half, but Connelly did a solid job. His talent is unrefined at this point, but it's definitely there. The film has a lot of great moments. Connelly has a great eye and ear, and may just turn out to be a helluva director. 

Awaiting DVD info















  No major graded reviews.


6.2 IMDB summary (of 10)








  • Brief female toplessness. Unidentified females except for Emily Wickersham







Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


It is an interesting and original take on the vigilante film genre. It's part cautionary tale, part offbeat comedy.