REVIEW: “RICHARD JEWELL” (2019) Warner Bros.

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The title of this film “RICHARD JEWELL” is our subject matter as well. Jewell is a security guard who was hailed as a hero for finding a pipe bomb and thus preventing a bigger tragedy in 1996 during the time of the Atlanta Olympics. The film focuses on the events of the bombing itself and what takes place in the life of Richard Jewell post-bombing.

Imagine being falsely accused of a terrorist act that killed and injured people. Imagine that you are the FBI’s primary suspect. Imagine your name and face are spread across every possible media outlet. Imagine your belongings have been searched and seized as evidence – right down to your mom’s underwear. Lastly, imagine all of this occurs mere days after your actions actually saved lives and you were hailed as a hero across all of those same media outlets.  Well that imaginary man is actually Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser), a humble but rather over-zealous security guard whom yes, imagines himself a law enforcement officer as he never fails to tell us.

We first meet Richard as a supply clerk at a law firm in 1986. His awkward ways and surprising efficiency catches the eye of attorney Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell), a quasi-connection that comes into play a big part in both of their lives a decade later. We then jump ahead 10 years to find Richard being fired from his campus security job at a college due to not only his odd behaviour, but his escalating over-zealous focus on following protocol to a point of pulling people over off-campus as a police officer would. Fortunately for Richard, the Olympics are coming to Atlanta, so finding work as a security guard is pretty easy.

Pan to Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park. Crowds of people are dancing at a Kenny Rogers concert and two days later we have Sly & The Family Stone and people dancing the Macarena. As one of the on-site security guards, Richard spots a suspicious backpack that turns out to be holding the pipe bomb that detonates minutes later, creating turmoil and tragedy at the site.  In hindsight we see that thanks to Richard, it wasn’t worse and as the viewing audience, we know that Richard’s actions saved lives and he definitely is not responsible for planting the bomb. And it’s because of knowing this, that we have the feeling of being in Richard’s shoes – thanks in part because of the Oscar-worthy performance here by Hauser as well.  Every time we hear Richard say “I’m law enforcement too”, it’s heart-breaking to us and gives an opening for the FBI to try and manipulate him. The scenario of a single white male living at home with his mom, carrying his gung-ho dreams of a career in law enforcement while collecting guns, knowledge on bombs and police procedure, makes Richard Jewell the perfect patsy.

Two key supporting roles come courtesy of Oscar winner Kathy Bates as Richard’s mother Bobi, and Nina Arianda as Bryant’s paralegal Nadya. Bates starts out as a loving and simple mother to Richard, but her press conference captures the character in a new light. It’s a strong and heartfelt performance. Arianda on the other hand, brings some warmth sprinkled with welcome sarcasm to her role. Once again, Hauser is spot-on in every scene, and when the four are all together, it’s a pleasure to watch. Hauser and Rockwell are especially good in their scenes together as the ‘wronged man’ contrast with the take-no-bull attorney and somehow actually gives a touch a humour in this otherwise not so humourous story.

With Jon Hamm having perfected the role of the cocksure agent-man and this one being no different as he plays FBI Agent Tom Shaw, the man totally focused on proving Richard Jewell was the perpetrator. The depiction of Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) is a bit curious, being that the uproar is over what some interpret as a reporter trading intimate relations for a scoop, yet the contempt here seems focused more on the idea of trying this case in the public eye while lacking any real evidence outside of a profile. Perhaps the viewer reaction to this is just a sign of the times we are now in.

Leading me into the fact that with four-time Oscar winner Clint Eastwood directing yet another story of a working-class hero, or essentially as he would like us all to see it. While the film deserves to be commended, the story being true as it is, as well as the wonderful performances by the entire cast, it was not lost on me on or many I saw the film with-of the political propaganda side of this film in the times facing us in our present situation. Staunch Republican that he is, Mr. Eastwood was sure to make note at what could be construed to believe to be perfect timing of the fact of the FBI made a huge error is their assessment of Richard Jewell and as such are not to be trusted. Same point being made with the media – aka ‘fake media’. Perfect timing Mr. Eastwood for more political rhetoric to keep in tune with the division of this country. Taking the hero story to the next level as we all know human beings make mistakes – and while there is cause to find total fault with the mishandling of this case, it goes without saying that they are not always wrong. No one would want to find themselves in Richard Jewell’s shoes, hence this story does deserve to be told even if it feels like a two-headed coin spin by Eastwood here.

Both Richard Jewell and Kathy Scruggs have passed, him in 2007, her in 2001, so we will never know their take on all this today.

Grade: B

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Media Screening: Tuesday, December 10, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros. 

“RICHARD JEWELL” IS OUT IN U.S. THEATERS NOW // WORLDWIDE TO FOLLOW JANUARY 2020

REVIEW: “THE BIG SHORT” (2015) Paramount Pictures

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the big short
When Ryan Gosling’s character Jared Vennett asks the question to a room full of brokers.. “What’s that smell?” and answers it with “Opportunity” you know then and there to prepare yourself for a very different type of ride.

The film’s narrative is driven by four cynical, fringe Wall Streeter’s disgusted with the large banking institutions’ overriding greed for profits. Separately, but yet oddly together, they make the decision to capitalize on the ensuing housing market catastrophe and the financial meltdown of 2008 upon discovering the market frenzy is being driven by worthless collateral debt obligations.
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While I might never figure out how Director Adam McKay made deplorable humans, blinding fear, gut-wrentching outrage and delightful shaming so much fun to watch ~ He most definitely brought along his dark bag of laughs here, but planted them in such a way as to where we actually understood what was happening thanks to fun cameo explanations from the likes of Margot Robbie in a bubble bath, Anthony Bourdain cooking it right up, and even Selena Gomez gambling though her little monologue.

After a rather lengthy dizzying, yet delightful, character introduction, the film picks up pace as the drama begins to unfold. Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale), an eccentric financial analyst, with complete autonomy of an investment fund, uncovers variables in his economic forecast indicating a massive housing market collapse. He informs his higher up, Lawrence Fields (Tracy Letts), of his discovery and creates a financial prospectus. In essence, he creates a commodity of selling short on bundled mortgages.
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The bankers laugh themselves silly as they willingly sell Burry all the “insurance” he wants. Word quickly spreads of Burry’s perceived madness in a after-work cocktail scene. With interest piqued upon overhearing the Wall Street gossip of the day, Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), scoops up the aspects of Burry’s move. Soon, he sells it to a group led by Steve Carell’s real-life character, Mark Baum and convinces them to buy in.

As the debacle is in full free-fall, Baum struggles with disbelief as he and his group have bet against their own umbrella entity, Morgan Stanley. The final team that has uncovered the impending financial crisis, made up of two Wall Street rookie wanna-be’s, Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) and Charlie Geller (John Magaro) who along with veteran trader turned-conspiracist Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), also struggle with the imploding financial system caused by corporate greed and indifference
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With a mammoth cast, the acting in this movie is pristine with the whole ensemble cast being in top form. With that said however there were three stand out performances that somewhat break this mold.
Ryan Gosling might be the funniest as he narrates and embodies the fact that he’s a scum bag and just rolls with it, offering an entertainingly slick performance. Christian Bale let us feel his pain and lonely genius, stole the show in every scene he was in. The only genuinely relate able character in the lot, Bale conveys a great deal of sensitivity, making it one of his best performances to date. Steve Carell dug deep and came up with a persona that brings Baum to life, even if he does over act at times which I guess is how he really is in true-life form.
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It was also nice to see Marisa Tomei, Hamish Linklater, Billy Magnussen, Rafe Spall, Max Greenfield and talented others working at a solid supporting level.

With all the ‘truth’ films out there this year, “The Big Short” is one of the more important ones of this group and also one of the best. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time as the film warns us in a way, who knows what will be the next basic human necessity to be denied by those few who hold power.

Grade: B+
@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening: Arclight Hollywood ~ Tuesday, December 8, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
In Select Theaters: Friday, December 11, 2015
NATIONWIDE RELEASE: Wednesday, December 23, 2015