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Posts Tagged ‘Paul Walter Hauser’

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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“BLACKkKLANSMAN” My rating: B-

145 minutes | MPAA rating: R

As confirmed by the six-minute standing ovation it received at May’s Cannes International Film Festival, Spike Lee’s “BlackKKlansman” is the right movie at the right time.

The film so effectively punches certain cultural hot buttons, so taps into the current political zeitgeist that it takes an hour of its 145-minute running time to realize that as drama it’s pretty weak stuff.

Based on the real story of Ron Stallworth, a black police detective in Colorado Springs who in the late ’70s infiltrated and even joined the Ku Klux Klan, the film is an uneasy melding of suspense, liberal uplift and  satire in which every element — performances, writing, pacing — is subservient to the delivery of a political message.

I’m down with that message. The film opens with a 50s-era “educational” film in which a eugenicist (Alec Baldwin) rants against the threat posed by race mingling. It closes with news footage of neo-Nazis marching last year in Charlottesville VA (and President Trump giving them a pass).

Even so, the movie (Lee co-wrote the screenplay with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz  and K.U. teacher and filmmaker Kevin Willmott) is notably heavy handed. Yeah, today’s audiences haven’t much use for subtlety, but even so…

We encounter Stallworth (John David Washington…Denzel’s son) when he applies to become the first black officer on the Colorado Springs force.  He’s warned by the Chief (Robert John Burke) that he’ll have to have a Jackie Robinson-level of tolerance for abuse.  It’ll come at him not just from the public but from  his fellow officers.

But Stallworth is ambitious. So when Civil Rights activist Stokely Carmichael is booked to address African American students at a local college,  the department’s sole black cop jumps at the chance to go undercover. He’s assigned to attend the rally and report back on Carmichael’s speech (the activist was long a target of Hoover’s FBI).

The fallout from the event is considerable.

First, Stallworth exhibits his value as a plainclothes officer, leading to his elevation to the rank of detective.

Second, he meets and eventually falls for Patrice (Laura Harrier), the student activist who organized the event — although it will be some time before he confesses that he’s one of the “pigs” she so despises.

Third, he finds himself unexpectedly inspired by Carmichael (Corey Hawkins), whose message of black pride/power hits hard. But did Lee really have to punctuate this scene with artsy montages of young black faces transformed by the speech? Aren’t Carmichael’s words powerful enough?

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