Comfortable and Furious

Richard Jewell

2 hours 11 minutes, Rated R for profanity, minor violence.

Fair Value of Richard Jewell: $12.00. I don’t think it’s the best film of the year, but I’d say that it’s a film I’d want as mandatory viewing in a civics course, along with 12 Years a Slave.

That’s high praise. Not really, it’s just I think every American should take the lessons of this film to heart.

What is this film’s lesson? ALWAYS HAVE YOUR LAWYER. Law Enforcement will fuck you if you’re guilty. Law Enforcement will fuck if you’re innocent. Law Enforcement will fuck you if you’re a victim. The only time when Law Enforcement will not fuck you is if you are a direct supervisor or commander of Law Enforcement.

If you ever encounter a bomb, or other suspicious activity, just walk away, as quickly and quietly as possible. The only reason to ever report such a thing is if you believe you will not be able to effectively leave the blast radius of the device prior to detonation. The old proverb ‘Kill the Messenger’ is proverbial because it’s real. You don’t get rewards for reporting a crime- you get added as the prime suspect.

Is this film worth my time? I think it’s a valuable reminder about the importance of due process and your Sixth Amendment Right to legal counsel.

Clint Eastwood’s small and intimate biopic, part of his American heroes’ series (a long with Sully, 15:17 to Paris, and American Sniper) ultimately works a paean to due process, despite the malfeasance of the FBI, led the arrogant agent Shaw (John Hamm). It’s only due to the efforts of a good lawyer (Sam Rockwell) that Jewell is able to avoid getting fried in the lynch mob mentality that ensues after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing.

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The gears of the legal system grind slowly, far slower than media tornado that threatens to upend the small life of security guard Richard Jewell. More importantly, the dispassionate an dispersed nature of law is to safeguard against the kind of knee-jerk hunches and wild conclusions that the FBI jumps to during the course of this film.

What works in this pic? The film rests on the strong performances of Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates (as Jewell’s mother Bobbi) and Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell). Hauser’s performance is perfect- a familiar man-child, dumb enough to be underestimated, but possessing of a subtle intelligence and determination that allows him to eventually prevail. Bates disappeared into her role to the point I wasn’t even sure that it was her.

Who will not like this film? Don’t come to this film looking for balanced objectivity. Eastwood’s got a clear bias against academia (petty), the federal government (tyrannical), and the media, who gets it worst of all. Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), an Atlanta Journal-Courier reporter, is portrayed as a ruthless harpy, one who’s reaction to a bombing is to pray that the bomber is an interesting subject for news coverage. It’s very one dimensional.

What is the summary of this film’s concept? A study in how quickly the media cycle can shift the public from ‘Hero of the Day’ to ‘Two Minute Hate’, and how ordinary people are boiled away under the dual magnifying lenses of a media circus and a federal investigation.

Conclusion: Of the series so far, I think it’s the best. Eastwood has drawn back from the absolute devotion to cinema verite’ that made 15:17 to Paris so un-engaging, while not being as jingoistic as American Sniper. If you’re looking for a small, quiet, yet subtly intense character study, Richard Jewell is a good choice.



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