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Rage and intolerance collide with compassion Academy-Award nominated David Strathairn portrays Danny Dunkleman, a Jewish liberal humanist, and the court-appointed lawyer representing Mike Downey, a Neo-Nazi Skinhead on trial for the racially motivated murder of an East Indian immigrant. Steel Toes takes us into the intense and fiery relationship that develops between these two men as they explore their emotional and intellectual differences. Steel Toes is a provocative exploration of the inescapable and insidious presence of racial and religious intolerance in our society. Written by
Principal photography took only 17 days. See more »
[in ending the first meeting with his neo-Nazi client]
Do you have any reason for wanting me on this?
Like I said: you're a humanist, liberal Jew, so you gotta do your very best.
Oh, yes, that's right... 'Course. I forgot.
In an ideal world, I'd have you eliminated. In this world I need you more than anyone.
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Steel Toes is basically a play that has been filmed - not usually my cup of tea - but the filmmakers have provided enough visual action to change it from a dry play put before a motionless camera into an engrossing character study driven by two extraordinary actors.
The story of one of brutality and redemption revolving around self-examinations by the two major characters.
Mike is a hateful neo-Nazi who beats an Indian man so badly that he eventually dies. The attack was basically unprovoked which caused it to be even more horrendous. Because of his skinhead ties, it has been necessary for the authorities to place him in isolation while awaiting trial.
Enter Danny who will be serving as Mike's defense attorney. Danny is a middle-aged Jewish man who somehow sees something beyond hate in his young client, and he makes it his goal to reach the human being buried deep within indoctrination and prejudice.
The interplay between the actors playing these two men - actually a man and a boy - is the meat of this film, and their time on screen is a luxury to the viewer.
David Strathairn portrays Danny. He is a consummate actor and, as Danny, he entitles us a view of a good, strong-willed man who, through his interaction with a young man lost to society, is able to reexamine his own life and goals. He is such a strong performer that the viewer never doubts the accomplishment of his gargantuan task of bringing about the reformation of a man filled with hate.
Andrew W. Walker plays Mike. Most of his credits are in television and in programs that are of no interest to me, so I did not recognize him. Actually, I think this heightened my enjoyment of his portrayal. He is astounding as a raw young man completely given over to hate, prejudice, and testosterone - a deadly combination.
There is a third extremely moving performance given in the film, and that is the one given by Ivan Smith as the Indian man beaten to death by Mike. The scene is that of Smith's character giving his victim impact statement in the hospital before his death. It is heartbreaking.
This film, in spite of its subject matter, actually has somewhat of an upbeat ending in which the triumph of knowledge and character overcome baser human emotions. Steel Toes is a delicacy for anyone who enjoys a film saturated with superior acting.
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