Feb. 26, 2000

"The Insider"

 

        OK, let’s start at the top of my gripes:

        1. Is there a shortage of middle-aged, Caucasian, American actors?  Why on Earth would anyone cast a young Australian (Russell Crowe) in this part?  He spends the entire movie mumbling to hide his accent, while trying to keep his jaw pressed against his chest to create double-chins and jowls.
        2. This film would have been twice as good—which would still not make it a good movie—if it had been minimally 45 minutes shorter than it is.  However, at 2 hours and 45 minutes it’s like someone poured molasses into the projector.
        3. Does anybody really give a shit at this late date that nicotine is a drug and the tobacco companies would prefer that we not look at it that way (they would prefer that we look at cigarettes like, say, candy).  The big drama in the movie when it is revealed that cigarettes are nothing but "a delivery system for nicotine" is completely ridiculous.  Guess what?  So is a pipe.  So is a cigar.  So what?  Look, I don’t smoke because I enjoy having a burning object in front of my face, I smoke to get the nicotine into my bloodstream.  I know it, you know, everybody knows it.  Why are we all acting like coy little schoolgirls?
        4. Michael Mann directs like he’s on drugs.  Non-stop needless angles, all hand-held for no reason, but seemingly never the right angle.  Mann has scored the film as though the post sound guys went home and he sneaked in after a party totally plastered and didn’t know how to use the equipment.  Opera for a bit, then some downbeat electronic stuff, then some dirge-like classical, then back to the opera for a while.  The points at which it switches seem utterly arbitrary.
        5. Am I supposed to seriously accept the TV show "60 Minutes" as the ultimate paragon of truth and honesty?  That it has never been sensationalistic or told-half truths, or even flat-out lies?  Come on!  Another big dramatic moment is when Mike Wallace, improbably portrayed by Christopher Plummer (who’s great anyway) suddenly takes sides with CBS against the truth-seeking, good-hearted, well-intentioned, intrepid reporter nicely played by Al Pacino.  There is no motivation for this flip-flop on Wallace’s part, nor his change back—he just does it because it’s time for something to happen.  And that the ultimate issue comes down to the reporter’s integrity and that he can no longer work at "60 Minutes" because it is now sullied and impure is self-righteous horseshit of a particularly stinky variety.

—Josh Becker

 

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