Clint Eastwood doesn’t much care for all the fakeness that permeates so much of American society these days. That was made even more clear within the context of his latest film, Richard Jewell, an unflinching expose on the dubious motivations of Fake News which so often is so content to attack and vilify traditional American values and common, everyday people.
Richard Jewell is also a clear and approving nod to this nation’s current Commander in Chief, President Donald Trump.
You ready to start fighting back?”
Sam Rockwell asks the title character that question deep into “Richard Jewell.”
The Clint Eastwood film recalls how the FBI and media aligned to punish a security guard who saved lives at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Only the film feels like Eastwood is channeling a certain Commander in Chief.
Conservatives have spent the last three years fighting against a culture calling them racist, sexist, homophobic and more. They’ve been maligned for wanting to keep the borders secure and jobs from fleeing overseas. Reporters and celebrities alike led the charge against Red State America, forgoing the truth for progressive narratives.
It’s well past time for a Hollywood movie to take their side. Only a rebel like Eastwood could fight back in Oscar-worthy fashion.
Paul Walter Hauser is Richard Jewell, a portly soul who pines to protect and serve. He’s stuck “serving” as a security guard at a university, a task he takes far too seriously, according to one supervisor.
Richard ends up on the Summer Olympics security force, getting paid to hear Kenny Rogers serenade the crowd. One fateful night he spots a duffel bag left under a bench. His crude Spidey Senses tingle, and he alerts his fellow guards about its potential danger.
We know what happened next. Eastwood knows what we know, and he masterfully conducts the bombing with that in mind.
The press initially dubs Richard a hero, and he’s curious about the trappings of instant fame. That doesn’t last long.
The FBI, personified by a smug Jon Hamm, think Jewell planted the bomb himself to fulfill his hero fantasies. Hamm’s character shares that “tip” with journalist Kathy Scruggs (an occasionally over the top Olivia Wilde), and suddenly Richard’s insta-fame turns into a 20th-century nightmare.
Richard was an overweight white male who owned guns and had no girlfriend or wife. Or, as Kathy puts it, “He’s a fat f*** who lives with his mom. How did we miss that?”
Our culture abhors racial profiling, unless the suspect ticks off those boxes, and then it’s game on. Richard found that out the hard way.
“Richard Jewell” plays out like a conservative’s dream assault on our corrupt media. The film weaponizes press clippings and news bytes from the era to state its case. Under Eastwood’s direction, “Real” news becomes an indictment of 21st century Fake News.
It’s impossible to read it any other way.
“Why did Tom Brokaw say that about you?” a marvelous Kathy Bates, playing Richard’s Ma, asks after the anchor convicts Richard on live TV. Never mind that the FBI had no true evidence against him save that damning “profile.”
Eastwood and screenwriter Billy Ray (“Captain Phillips”) conspire to drag the press two decades before the institution disgraced itself on a weekly basis. The FBI prove equally inept here, rushing to judgment while tearing an innocent man’s life down in the process.
Hauser’s Richard remains terminally clueless about the odds stacked against him, often siding with the forces out to take him down. The actor plays that balancing act without a hint of artifice. He’s a simple man, a decent soul who loves his Mamma and ain’t afraid of hard work.
Bring it, he says.
It’s why he stayed at his post the night of the bombing despite serious intestinal distress. You’re given a job. Do it, and do it well. It’s a quiet message that reverberates through the movie.
Once again, Eastwood knows his audience.
Compare that to Hamm and Wilde’s characters. Both toil in respected positions yet each is eager for something greater. More fame. More power.
(This is a direct and very intentional link to the Deep State corruption that attacked President Trump in 2016 and beyond where FBI officials, among others, saw fit to try and nullify the will of the American people.)
“Richard Jewell” packs a bevy of grace notes, like Bates’ mother trying to remove permanent marker off of her Tupperware. The FBI took it from her, labeling it as potential evidence.
It won’t rub off, a perfect metaphor for what the FBI did to her boy. He died in 2007 of diabetes-related heart failure. He was 44.
Early on Jewell shares his sweet but naive take about his beloved United States: “I believe in law and order…you can’t have a country without it.”
It took a movie by an 89-year-old auteur to remind us of that simple, elegant truth.
HiT or Miss: “Richard Jewell” is a testament to a wronged man, a cry against government overreach and an upper cut on Fake News’ jaw. It’s also one of the year’s best films.