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Brilliant , Inherently Political
Spike Lee has mixed an objective portrayal with an intelligent yet subjective commentary. While Lee doesn't refrain from throwing a few bombs, he does it with a degree of class that I really did not expect. The piece is surprisingly insightful, regardless of whether you agree with his conclusions.
What is true in this documentary is the feeling of confusion and despair felt by the victims of the Hurricane. I thought he brilliantly illustrated the sentiment of those victims. The victims ARE the truth. For a few fleeting moments I got a full, sensational taste of how these people are feeling. This to me is indicative of a good piece of media.
But the bottom line is that Katrina was exhibitory of a problem in this country. As to what that problem is, everyone will see it differently. The question left up to the viewer is really one of, "what have we learned?". My answer? Probably not a heck of a lot. I believe through the appropriate title "When the Levees Broke", Spike agrees with me that the levees are the "red-hand" of who to blame. But who is to blame? Are not civil engineering and infrastructure upkeep some of the most fundamental functions of government? Why did this happen? I know by watching this film that my answer would differ substantially from Spike's. But regardless of how you characterize the problem, Lee definitely presents you with one.
Donnie Brasco (1997)
Another mafia movie? Yes, and a whole lot more.
Another mafia movie? Yes, and a whole lot more. Directed by Mike Newell and based on the real life account of FBI agent Joseph Pistone, Donnie Brasco is able to transcend it's crime drama label by examining the age old battle between good and evil from a different angle. The outcome is pretty blurry.
Johnny Depp plays Joe Pistone aliased "Donnie Brasco" who is infiltrating the 1970's New York City mafia. His main vessel into the goings-on of the mob is Benny Ruggiero a.k.a "Lefty", an unindemnified aging mafia underling played by Al Pacino. Pistone must earn the trust of Ruggiero in order to gain entry into the group and eventually incriminate him and his mob superiors. However, this proves more difficult as the goals of Donnie Brasco blur when Ruggiero's character emerges as a good but tragically flawed man, victimized by his own simplicity and plagued by a history that determines his future. Pistone understands that the consequence of his disclosure of evidence and unveiling of identity will result in Ruggiero, Pistone's voucher, being "sent for", mafia speak for a meeting where the invited is killed. Pistone develops a deep heartache for his friend making his job all the more harder. Meanwhile changes in the crime family ranks result in unforeseen circumstances. As Pistone's undercover duties grow more complicated, real life family demands remain, testing his marriage. But underlying throughout the film is his growing guilt over the hit that would be placed on Ruggiero when "Donnie Brasco" is revealed to the mob as Special Agent Joe Pistone.
Rarely do you find a film with so many layers beautifully acted by all, supporting cast included. The dialogue between Pacino and Depp is unforgettable with a full range of humor and drama that will have you remembering entire conversations word for word. The overall production is unintentional, appropriately realistic and inventively devoid of over-stylized techniques making it a true original. Unfortunately, Donnie Brasco is often overlooked when we think of the great mafia inspired crime-dramas. The only reason I can find for this unfair exclusion is that this film appropriately bleeds realism, not romanticism. For this reason I think some viewers are left with a sour taste in their mouths having had the all powerful image of the American mobster examined under a more critical microscope. Donnie Brasco goes beyond stereotypes to reveal men in their totality and in doing so finds it's own unique place in the mafia film genre.
Four Brothers (2005)
John Singelton insists once again that people are one dimensional stereotypes.
Singleton has directed yet another poor, unbelievable movie. He must think people pretty dumb, to continually take his movies in such a childish and obvious direction. The film oversimplifies human emotion and insists on stereotyping its cast of characters. Just like the seven dwarfs of Snow White, the characters of Four Brothers are spelled out for you almost immediately with no later development to come. In case you can't gather this from the writing, Singleton is there to shove it in your face. On top of this, the chemistry and love needed to bring this film together and bind these men, just isn't there. The relationships are not believable.
Not only are the relationships not believable, the characters themselves are not believable as tough guys. Even Mark Wahlberg, who always manages to pull it off, has trouble finding the rage needed to show the vengeful hate the film intends.
Although the movie does show a tiny glimpse of a good whodunnit, it is handicapped by a cheap screenplay delivered with false characters and false emotions. Terrence Howard and Mark Wahlberg who are both dynamic and rangeful actors, should be given a head start on this one so to speak because after all, they were working with John Singleton and the "Four Brothers" script.