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Posts Tagged ‘John Hamm’

Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Paul Walter Hauser

“RICHARD JEWELL” My rating: B

129 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Nearly 50 years ago the great New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael wondered (in a review of Sam Peckilnpah’s “Straw Dogs,” I recall) whether fascist art was even possible.

Of course she hadn’t met late-stage Clint Eastwood.

Not that Eastwood is a fascist. But his right-leaning attitudes (in this case a big-time distrust of big government and the media, an attitude he shares with our President) are on full display in “Richard Jewell,” the fact-based story of a hero who overnight became a scapegoat.

Jewell, of course, was the security guard who at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta discovered an abandoned backpack containing several pipe bombs. He was instrumental in clearing civilians from the area; nevertheless, in the ensuing explosion two persons died and more than 100 were injured.

For a few days Jewell was a national hero; then the FBI decided he perfectly fit the profile of the hero bomber, a man (usually white, often a law enforcement wannabe) who sets up a crisis situation so that he can play the role of a hero in saving lives. And from that point on Richard Jewell’s life became a living hell.

Billy Ray’s screenplay introduces us to Richard  (a spectacular Paul Walter Hauser) in the months before the incident. He’s working in a government office pushing around a supply cart when he meets Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell), a combative attorney chafing under civil service bureaucracy.

Watson is initially amused by Richard, an obese fellow who years earlier had been fired from his job as a deputy sheriff and has a desperate (and wildly unrealistic) desire to get back into law enforcement. Richard is a doofus, no doubt, but a sweet and polite doofus. The two start sharing lunches, at least until Richard gets a job as a security guard at a nearby college.

That doesn’t last, either. He gets into physical confrontations with the students; he pulls over speeders on a nearby highway even though he has absolutely no jurisdiction off campus. Good news, though…with the Olympic games coming to town there’s a big demand for security personnel.

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Jon Hamm

“BEIRUT”  My rating: B-

109 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Beirut” is a decent LeCarresque thriller that doesn’t live up to its advance hype.

It’s O.K. Not great. It features  a solid central performance by Jon Hamm as a boozy former diplomat with a bad case of existential angst, and Moroccan locations that fill in nicely for the war-ravaged city of the title.

But too often this effort from writer Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton,” “The Bourne Legacy,” “Rogue One”) and veteran TV director Brad Anderson feels overly familiar. The plot, characters and situations offer a well-produced retread of material we’ve already seen many times before.

Gilroy’s screenplay begins in Beirut in 1972.  American diplomat Mason Skiles (Hamm) is presiding over a cocktail party in his residence overlooking the city known by many as the Paris of the Mideast.

Civil war is brewing, but Mason has dedicated his diplomatic skills to averting armed conflict among Lebanon’s native Muslims and Christians, not to mention the Palestinian refugees who are flooding the country and the Israeli military presence hovering at the  border.

It says much about Mason’s liberality that he is married to a Lebanese woman and the couple have taken in a teenaged Palestinian refugee named Karim.

In mere minutes, Mason’s world falls apart. CIA thugs show up to snatch Karim, having just discovered that the boy is the younger brother of a known terrorist. At the same time Karim’s sibling shows up to grab the kid. In the ensuing mayhem Mason’s wife is gunned down.

A decade later we find Mason back in the states using his negotiating skills to settle labor disputes. His heart really isn’t in his work, though. He’s a lush with nothing to live for.

 

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