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Whenever the apocalypse happens, there’s always that one guy left over to roam the desolate countryside, scavenge the decrepit goods left over by others and mumbling to himself as he waits for the plot to come along.

In the mostly okay thriller The Book of Eli, the guy is Denzel Washington. He is Eli. He carries a Bible with him that no one is allowed to touch. He’s got a burning rage on his face that says “Team Conan.”

He’s a Bible-thumping, sword-swinging, sniper-shooting loner whom everyone he meets tries to mess with, sheerly for the entertainment value that results in being dispatched by him. Eli is like the funniest guy at a roast. “Do me! Do me!” this guy or that entire group of roadside ninja assassins will say, and sure enough, Eli will ginsu them into cannibal fillets.

I didn’t catch the year in which the movie takes place, but it was definitely after Kill Bill was made, because Eli has got all of Beatrix Kiddo’s moves down cold.

Eli roams through a desolate land plagued by decayed buildings and abandoned car lots. Basically present-day Detroit, only a little better looking. He is headed west, which we know because he keeps on grunting “I’m heading west.” Eventually he happens upon a ghost town to get his MP3 player charged, and happens upon a despotism run by the evil Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who oppresses kindly shopkeepers, cruel minions and a mother-daughter harem of Jennifer Beals and Mila Kunis. (High five to Carnegie on that harem, BTW).

You can see where this is going, right? Carnegie wants to get all up on Eli’s Bible, but Eli says no, and not only that but decides to, shall we say, reduce Carnegie’s workforce and totally platonically rescue a member of the harem who was not alive when Flashdance came out.

It’s all-too predictable yet gripping stuff for the most part, until things go haywire in the final act in a way that would likely give Kirk Cameron a holy orgasm and sends you back pointing out plotholes the size of an apocalyptic death crater.

But hey, it’s January, so you can’t expect too much. Other than Leap Year, this is the best apocalyptic horror film of the year so far.

Starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman and Mila Kunis. Written by Gary Whitta. Directed by Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes. Rated R. 118 minutes.

Phil Villarreal’s humorous money-saving book Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel is available on Amazon.

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