Feb. 26, 2000
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.
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.