Daily Archives: March 7, 2000

Deterrence

Try to imagine a noncomic remake of Dr. Strangelove in which the title hero becomes the voice of reason; hold that thought and imagine a remake of the gulf war in which Saddam Hussein’s son invades Kuwait and the acting U.S. president (Kevin Pollak) threatens to drop a nuclear bomb on Baghdad. You’ve still only got the beginnings of what makes this stagy thriller, set in a snowbound roadside diner, so repellent. According to Rod Lurie, the onetime film critic who wrote and directed this, nuking Baghdad may be questionable because the site was once the Garden of Eden, but not because people happen to live there; it even becomes a brilliant strategic macho move if the victims are incapable of retaliating. The fact that this movie functions reasonably well as a suspense thriller only makes it more vile, as do such ideological escape clauses as the black woman who acts as the president’s top adviser and the redneck who shows his true class colors by calling Iraqis sand niggers. Foreigners who argue that Americans are Neanderthal savages can point to this movie as persuasive evidence. With Timothy Hutton, Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Sean Astin. (JR)… Read more »

Erin Brockovich

I’ve never been much of a Julia Roberts fan, but I have to admit that director Steven Soderbergh coaxes a very lively performance out of her in this docudrama, which intermittently reminds me of Silkwood (1983). Roberts plays a young divorced mother and former beauty queen who rounds up 600 plaintiffs to sue the power company that’s been contaminating the water. The script by Susannah Grant is standard-issue liberal feel-good fodder that in former decades might have been directed by Martin Ritt; Soderbergh deals with it respectfully and effectively without ever transcending its generic limitations. With Albert Finney as the heroine’s boss and Aaron Eckhart as her biker lover. 130 min. (JR)… Read more »