The Believer

Inspired by a true story, this stylistically inventive 2001 film about a young Jewish proto-Nazi (Ryan Gosling) is the masterful first feature of writer-director Henry Bean, whose previous work as a writer has been on features as varied as Deep Cover, Internal Affairs, Enemy of the State, Murder by Numbers, and Chantal Akerman’s musical, Window Shopping. Persuasive, intelligent, and provocativethough it makes no attempt to offer a comprehensive psychological explanation for its antihero (assorted clues are offered)this is both a film about hatred in the tradition of Samuel Fuller and a film about being Jewish. Gosling is compelling throughout and the secondary cast, including Summer Phoenix, Theresa Russell, and Billy Zane, is excellent; Bean himself plays a bit part as a Jewish investment banker and former ambassador whom the protagonist plans to assassinate. (Shown recently on cable, this is belatedly getting a theatrical release.) 98 min. (JR)

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