It’s easy to see how Lewis acquired his nickname “ZigZag” (Sam Jones III). An autistic fifteen year old who works as a dishwasher, ZigZag’s head rocks gently from side to side as he rides his bike or works his magic in the restaurant kitchen. When his abusive crackhead father (Wesley Snipes) orders him to come up with $200 for rent — “Two, zero, zero” in ZigZag’s halting parlance — the panicked young man robs the restaurant’s safe…only to have his dad steal the money from him to repay some debts of his own.
Eventually, ZigZag’s Big Brother Singer (John Leguizamo) learns of his young charge’s theft. Weakened by a losing battle with testicular cancer, Singer scrambles to come up with a way to return the money before ZigZag’s lout of a boss Mr. Walters, AKA “The Toad” (A hilariously repugnant Oliver Platt), can finger his young dishwasher.
Heartwarming and gently comic even as the film breaks your heart, “ZigZag” shows what a talented writer/director can do when not forced to feed the studio maw. David S. Goyer’s fine film bears no resemblance to his scripts for such genre films as “Blade” and “The Puppet Masters.” Adapted from the novel by Lando J. Napoleon, “ZigZag” is all about the characters. Fortunately, there’s not a weak performance in the bunch. Leguizamo is especially poignant as ZigZag’s stricken but stubborn mentor — a hilarious scene in which Singer explains the Birds and the Bees to ZigZag is worth the price of admission alone — while Snipes is virtually unrecognizable in his small but juicy role as the deadbeat dad.
Yet “ZigZag” rests heavily on Jones III’s sensational turn as the lead character. Capable of drawing empathy without pity from an audience, his ZigZag is the unlikely constant in a world swirling with change and intrigue. There’s no ducking and weaving here. “ZigZag” scores a direct hit.