Metascore
37

Generally unfavorable reviews - based on 27 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 27
  2. Negative: 10 out of 27
Watch On
  1. 80
    Thoroughly entertaining and will possibly get you thinking about certain choices you've made in your life.
  2. A compelling, exquisitely acted drama about the shock waves emanating from -- and toward -- a single act of almost inexplicable violence.
  3. A tale of disaffection, devastation and epiphanies of the catastrophic kind.
  4. A complex and often compelling melodrama, at times almost verging on soap opera.
  5. 50
    Only Chris Klein, as the lovesick live-in boyfriend of Becky's sister, is given anything like an active emotional arc to play, and he runs with it so beautifully that he steals the movie.
  6. The screenplay aims high in terms of humanity and complexity, but director Hoge drains it of energy with listless meanderings that provide more yawns than insights.
  7. 50
    I believe it is as cruel and senseless as the killings in "Elephant," but while that film was chillingly objective, this one seems to be on everybody's side. It's a moral muddle.
  8. The finished film, while competently acted and staged, has missed the high mark Spacey set for it. It's self-important, tedious and ultimately pointless, with absolutely none of the sardonic wit that remains the most memorable feature of "American Beauty."
  9. 50
    Hoge's film raises more questions than it answers – that's his point, I think, to get us thinking – and Gosling, who previously played the conflicted Jewish Nazi skinhead in "The Believer," inhabits the role of Leland so fully it's as if the character had killed him as well.
  10. In his thoughtfully paced, well-acted film, Hoge doesn't set out to solve the "why" of Leland's ghastly crime. He's more interested in examining the reason why society needs to create and interpret a reason for horror.
  11. 42
    The result is a frustrating and disturbing mishmash of vague philosophical noodling, which even the best-chosen cast can't imbue with zip.
  12. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    40
    Hoge shows no particular directorial style, bringing a bland, anonymous look to the generic Southern California suburban locations.
  13. 40
    Hoge, who scripted and directed The United States Of Leland, caters to his cast too much. He gives almost every character a way-too-involved subplot, which distracts from the heart of his story.
  14. An ambitious and intelligent film probing that chronic contemporary phenomenon, the seemingly senseless crime, but it is ultimately unsatisfying for all its efforts and various pluses.
  15. 40
    Fatuous twaddle posing as a REALLY DEEP consideration of what's wrong with our crazy, mixed-up world, Matthew Ryan Hoge's slick but deeply dumb film unfolds in a picture-perfect suburb of Anywheresville, USA.
  16. 40
    The characters' undiluted self-interest will seem one-dimensional to all but the worst cynics.
  17. Reviewed by: Anna Smith
    40
    It's poetic, hypnotic and well-performed, but fails to either draw out its characters with conviction or fully draw its audience in.
  18. There's a reason filmmaking is considered a craft, and Hoge, a former teacher in a juvenile prison, cannot pull off what would be a tricky proposition for a skilled veteran.
  19. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    38
    Absence of motive makes the movie provocative; the explanation renders it irrelevant and defuses any interesting debate the film might have inspired.
  20. The United States of Leland has a resonance of "Elephant" without the visual poetry or structural sophistication, or "American Beauty" without the leavening comedy, but it's neither an insightful nor well-made film.
  21. 30
    The movie's idiotic fascination with the senselessness of its central act is scarily close to a fetish.
  22. The real question raised by The United States of Leland is not why, but how. How, that is, did so many talented actors find their way to this dreary and derivative study in suburban dysfunction?
  23. There's something secondhand about everything here. Hoge (this is his debut) seems to be mimicking the tone and fabric of other, better indie movies.
  24. Reviewed by: Melissa Levine
    30
    It's flapping its wings so desperately in pursuit of artistic heights that it nosedives directly into the ground. The relentless exertion makes the film a chore to watch.
  25. The United States of Leland is tedious yet infuriating, since its characters, all of whom seem to have emerged from a screenwriter's manual, are like exhibits in a thesis meant to indict the middle class for the crime of its collective dysfunction.
  26. 25
    This bomb, which premiered at last year's Sundance Film Festival, belongs in the same remainder bin as Spacey's "Pay It Forward," "K-Pax" and "The Life of David Gale."
User Score
7.1

Generally favorable reviews- based on 30 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 16
  2. Negative: 4 out of 16
  1. HollyC.
    Dec 27, 2005
    5
    I understand the bad reviews of this film, as the dialogue, various outskirt characters and plot points fell apart. This film feels very I understand the bad reviews of this film, as the dialogue, various outskirt characters and plot points fell apart. This film feels very writerly--like a good short story or novel (indeed, writer themes/characters are everywhere)--but it was ultimately adapted very poorly into a motion picture. Regardless of these problems, I do find that Ryan Gosling and Don Cheadle did remarkably well. The moral debate going on in this film--while engaging, is quite sophmoric in the end, which is too bad. The comparison one user review made to Donnie Darko, I think, is a bit generous as Darko was very well written, acted and directed. This film had some great actors--the direction was ok but the writing and plot devices fell through. The story, in the end, did seem muddled--and possibly better looking on paper then screen. Full Review »
  2. LarryJ
    Sep 30, 2005
    8
    [***SPOILERS***] Professional critics, for the most part, missed the point of this movie. Why did Leland do it? In the first part of the[***SPOILERS***] Professional critics, for the most part, missed the point of this movie. Why did Leland do it? In the first part of the movie we are led to think that there might have been a motivation akin to what we might find in Camus' "The Stranger": I just wanted to see what it'd feel like. However, as the movie progresses, and we are given more insight into Leland's psyche, we discover that he is deeply troubled. His perceptions of the world as full to the brim of profound sadness reveal his inadequate grasp of reality. His comiseration with some of the afflicted is what leads him to do it. Leland's killing is a mercy killing. He took himself to be helping, not hurting. When Leland perceives the kid eyeing a woman, Leland knows that the desire will go forever unsatisfied. When Leland sees the kid trying to ride through the tree, he sees that though the kid may want to progress, there are obstacles that will never allow it. Leland commits a mercy killing. Has he done something wrong? Of course. Does he deserve our pity? Yes. Have any critics who panned this movie understood it's subtle take on the complexity of desire and motivation? No! Full Review »
  3. MiguelG.
    Nov 28, 2006
    3
    The film does not tell anything, does not have any insight in any particular issue and it definitely has no complexity. Nothing to save apart The film does not tell anything, does not have any insight in any particular issue and it definitely has no complexity. Nothing to save apart of Kevin Sapcy's acting. Full Review »