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Betrayed (1988)

An FBI agent posing as a combine driver becomes romantically involved with a Midwest farmer who lives a double life as a white supremacist.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Katie Phillips / Cathy Weaver
Michael Carnes
Gladys Simmons
Al Sanders
Jack Carpenter
Sam Kraus
Maria Valdez ...
Rachel Simmons
Brian Bosak ...
Joey Simmons
Clifford A. Pellow ...
Reverend Russell Johnson


A woman starts work on a farm, and gets to know the owner. They get on well, and she also gets on with his children. He asks her to stay on when the work is finished. Things are not what they seem, and we discover the woman is actually an FBI agent... Written by Colin Tinto <cst@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

26 August 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Summer Lightning  »

Box Office


$19,000,000 (estimated)


$25,816,139 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Tom Berenger's favorite film of the ones he has been in. See more »


Reversed footage: As the family arrives to the camp site, smoke falls downwards from the sky to the torches. See more »


Gary Simmons: [after the murder of a black man] Come on, Katie. Come on now. Just a nigger. Don't make too much out of it. There's plenty more where he came from.
See more »


Referenced in Seinfeld: The Comeback (1997) See more »


The Devil's Right Hand
Written by Steve Earle
Performed by Waylon Jennings
Courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
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User Reviews

Excellent Drama of the Complexities of Racial Hatred and Family Love
14 September 2007 | by (Oakland, CA) – See all my reviews

At a crucial moment in the movie, the racist militia group that is the focus of the movie robs a bank, and one of their own are killed by an FBI agent. When asked shortly thereafter how he felt about the killing, the agent says that it was no more than wiping dirt off of his shoe. We often like to think of those people who engage in hatred and violence as being completely "unhuman". We want to believe that they are without emotions, without humanity, without integrity and mostly without love. In short, we want to believe that those with monstrous attitudes are only monsters and nothing else. And it is not so, which is I think the point of "Betrayed". People who adhere to what mainstream society judges as dangerous prejudices are in fact much more complex and often have more of humanity than we would like to believe.

The story centers around two characters: Gary Simmons, played with much tact and depth by Tom Berenger, a leader of a local white supremacist militia group, and Catherine Weaver, alias Katie Phillips (played with complete believability and subtleness by Debra Winger), the FBI Agent who infiltrates the group. Her goal: to link Simmons and his group with the slaying of a leftist shock-jock who is slain at the beginning of the film, an incident which closely resembles the real-life assassination of Denver radio talk show host Alan Berg, a leftist personality known for hanging up on callers and other on-the-air rudeness. (In real life he was the most popular and simultaneously the most hated radio host in his geographic area.) The FBI also wants to undercover any future plans the group may be concocting that might involve assassinating celebrities and/or politicians.

At first, Phillips believes the FBI have targeted the wrong people since despite their use of the N-word and occasional racist jokes, they appear to be peaceful friendly and neighborly, they appear to respect women, and they often give a helping hand to those in need. Gary Simmons is a loyal father, a model citizen who speaks his mind, a hard-worker, and a straight-shooter. He always tries to do the right thing. He is low key and doesn't speak often about his political views. And Phillips also finds herself quite taken with his two beautiful children who are innocent while simultaneously being indoctrinated with prejudice that may manifest itself later as hate and violence. To add to the confusion, Phillips finds herself falling for Simmons, wanting to believe that he is the wrong man.

But as Phillips sinks deeper into the family and friends of those around Simmons, she learns she is very wrong. After Simmons takes her "hunting", a deadly game in which a captured African-American is then hunted by a group of whites like a British Fox Hunt with automatic weapons, she realizes there is more to this group than her initial observations would indicate. Then a camping trip reveals that it is true, that Simmons and his close associates are members of a complex supremacist group with connections all over the country to people who believe that Jews, African-Americans, Gays, and Lesbians, and almost any other non-white ethnic group are intending to exterminate their livelihoods if not their lives. They have rationalized that they have to fight back. And these groups are their targets for not only hatred but for proposed violent engagements.

Phillips' other world is her FBI associates that keep pushing her to stay the course and complete her mission by staying within the family. Unlike her mid-west "family", the FBI team are emotionless, less sympathetic to the traumatic toll the assignment is taking on Phillips, and rather cold about what they are really doing. The government agents have little understanding that despite racists' destructive attitudes, they are real people who love, who grieve, and want happiness. While the FBI wants to put the racists into a convenient stereotypical box, Phillips realizes there is much more to these people than their hate. But she does find that their flawed perception of reality lies within a complex myriad of rationalizations that serve to construct their world-view. They have convinced themselves that only their hate and violence can save them.

The movie becomes a struggle between these two worlds, and at one point, Phillips begins to question which side is the "good" side, and ultimately she must make a choice between the two. The irony is that if we want to "fight" prejudice we can't "fight" the people, as it only fuels the next generation of racists and proves their point. Maybe we can't even fight the attitudes. Maybe we need to love them despite their attitudes and maybe that would foster more love as it appears that hate only breeds more hate regardless of which side we are on.

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