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: “AMERICAN SNIPER” – Warner Bros.

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You know those stories where you might not really understand who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? In which the lead character is a possibly a hero, but also a human being not without problems. That is the story of Chris Kyle, American Sniper.

I went into this film knowing a ton of fuss is being made about it – from all sides. And I won’t lie, points of this film can make it a very hard movie to watch at times. It’s the story of a man with formidable military qualities, doing something completely out of the ordinary to most of us in that he spent three years in the war doing things the vast majority of us could never really possibly imagine doing. It describes the kind of irresolvable moral dilemma undergone by a sniper in the war, and left to imagine what kind of consequences it could have on a human being to spend those years with only one ‘job’ to do and that job is killing people whether it be men, women or children if they are making a situation threatening to your fellow soldiers. american-sniper 1

But Chris Kyle was not someone who returned from the war with all his problems settled with a visit to the VA psychiatrist. The problems were not simply being afraid of sudden noises: for one thing, he drank, to name another, he had been arrested several times mostly for assault. He said he went to New Orleans during Katrina and he shot those who plundered the abandoned houses. He said he had killed two who wanted to steal his pickup. These stories and many more are in the autobiography of Kyle, that inspired this story. Even the way Kyle managed at some point to straighten his life helping veterans in trouble as he was a piece of history; also the complicated life of Eddie Routh, the guy who killed him, is all a piece of said history.
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Putting all my political thoughts aside regarding the “what if’s” of Chris Kyle..it’s clear he truly believed in what he was doing was the proper and right thing at the time. The point comes across to us by the fact he kept wanting to go back as he thought he could do more there than here, even though he kept leaving his family. It also speaks volumes during the scene where he runs into his younger brother “Jeff Kyle” (Keir O’Donnell) on the tarmac, Chris coming in for another tour, yet his brother just wanting at all costs, to get the hell out of dodge. The fact that we were dragged into a war against a country that never even attacked us as we all found out later..is not the story here..and wondering if those “what if’s” could have changed everything that happened is something we will never know as we can’t change the facts here. The problem is not that Clint Eastwood made ​​a film of “military propaganda”, as some say because he is a Republican & was a staunch supporter of Bush and the war; on the other hand the answer is also not simply that Clint Eastwood has just told a story. This is not even that the film isn’t always faithful to the real story, not that American Sniper should be a documentary, but take the story of Chris Kyle and tell it like it is, flaws and all, is just another idea. If we just stop and look at the movie as it is ~ a well-done film by Eastwood, though not by far his finest work. American sniper 4

Standouts here are really Bradley Cooper who embodies Chris Kyle completely down to that fact that, yes, he physically fits the role, like Will Smith in Ali, and brings some layers of complexity to an emotional depiction of a veteran and his what his life and family life can entail. Sienna Miller plays Chris’s wife, “Taya”, while not a bad performance, started to somewhat annoy me when it seemed all we heard from her was “You’ve changed” or ” I want my husband back” coming off in what could be deemed whiney when let’s just be real here, you do know what you’re getting into when you marry a Navy Seal. There is also a decent supporting cast, taking note for me is Luke Grimes as “Marc Lee” as Kyle’s most notable combat partner during some tough scenes, Cory Hardrict as “D/Dandridge”, Eric Laden “Squirrel/Case” and Jake McDorman as “Biggles” to name just a few.

There are the parts where the movie lacks direction. We all know Chris Kyle lied and made up a boatload of crazy stories – truth be told, the only one that really irks me is how he said he donated all the money from his book, but yet in actuality kept a huge portion of it. That one is a pisser..and yes.. we’ve all lied and made up stories, but for most of us, not to the extent that Chris did. But did anyone stop to think for a moment what all those killings actually might have done to his psyche? I shouldn’t even say ‘might have’ as unless your a complete socio/psychopath, having to kill that many people would have to affect anyone. But how most likely he was truly messed up in the head with major PTSD is barely even brought up here. And the fact that he was shot by someone who CLEARLY was carrying loads of PTSD luggage, yet it’s reduced to one small title screen at the end of the film. Me personally, I would have liked to have seen more of that story.
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I also have a bit of a problem with the way his ‘rivalry’ is shown with “Mustafa” (Sammy Sheik) is shown. This guy was an Olympic Gold Medalist-turned sniper, though Syrian, not Iraqi, and while the most human moments of him are when he is with his family or in his Olympic photos, we see nothing else except the hunt/cat & mouse game these two play with each other. His slo-mo death is also done a bit on the cheesy side for what purpose, I’m not sure. Yet the closing scenes of the film are also very powerful, and I don’t care who you are, you will be moved by it.

The film to me was a well made movie that shows the horror of war and what it does to people. Or can do. While I might think personally that Chris Kyle is more of a hero for what he did when he came back from war and helped other veterans, I do like it when a film actually makes you think or feel something that you can only imagine otherwise. And lastly, a huge point here, if you can’t separate the political from this and what it all entails and look at it from the viewpoint of ‘is it a good movie or not’ that not-withstanding what you may or may not feel about it personally, then your best bet is probably just not to see it. Though I think you will be missing something by doing so.

Grade: B-
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