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Digital Divide: March 2010

| March 1, 2010 | 0 Comments

The Informant!
Warner Bros.

The hip thing to do these days is to take all your anger and frustration about the stagnate economy, aim it at big business, and let the bile fly. All the cool kids are doing it, and rightfully so. Insurance companies make record profits only to jack up premiums to ungodly heights, and Wall Street gets billions tossed at them only to participate in a circle-jerk of executive bonus payouts.

So it’s no wonder the leviathans of business would be natural targets for the film world, which is where Steven Soderbergh comes in. Dipping in to his Oceans trilogy bag, he plucks Matt Damon to star as Mark Whitacre, a top level researcher at Illinois-based ADM, in the true story of the FBI’s investigation of price fixing at the agri-giant.

Whitacre, recruited by the feds to be their inside-man and lead snitch, happily cooperates with the government case. Eventually three top execs were found guilty, and the company paid out millions in fines and a class action lawsuit.

Yet Whitacre was not the selfless crusader he wanted the FBI to think he was, and the thought process behind his actions prove truly head-scratching.

First off, he had somehow convinced himself that his actions would elevate him to the chairman position of ADM, although the people who controlled decisions like that were the same people he was ratting out, and the company itself just might be brought down with them.

Then there’s the little matter of his embezzlement and check fraud schemes began before, and during, the FBI’s investigation which netted him around $9 million bucks. In the end, Whitacre was discovered, tried, and sentenced to more years in prison the the ADM execs he helped put away.

Damon again reminds us of his range, and he generally doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Although he’s become a go-to action guy, here he’s more William H. Macy in Fargo than Bourne.

A strong supporting cast doesn’t hurt either, with Scott Bakula and Joel McHale as the feds in charge, and Tony Hale (“Arrested Development”) as Whitacre’s put-upon lawyer.

The film itself is wonderful, but the Blu-Ray set is a huge disappointment. With all of the room for extras at their fingertips, the disc only comes with commentary by Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, a digital copy, and some additional scenes. Yet the subject matter cries out for more info. No, we don’t need a “making-of” feature, but we sure would like to know more about the real Whitacre, ADM’s schemes, and a host of other things that would give some insight into the world of corporate corruption.

In this economy, us mere mortals need that sort of thing.

Law Abiding Citizen
Anchor Bay

Almost as much as corporate malfeasance, the film-going public loves a good revenge flick. Too bad there hasn’t been one since Charles Bronson roamed the earth. Even if it’s the dreadful Taken, or about half of the Mel Gibson catalog, we just can’t seem to get enough of the righteous comeuppance.

Onto the stack of titles gets thrown Law Abiding Citizen, which finds Gerard Butler as Clyde, the perfect family man with the perfect family. At least we guess they’re the perfect family, we only see them for the first five minutes before they’re brutally dispatched. Best not to waste too much time gettin’ to the killin’ part. An assistant D.A. (Jamie Foxx) cuts a deal, and the head bad-guy gets a cushy prison sentence.

Flash forward 10 years, and its no more mister nice guy for Clyde. He sets the retribution radar to fix on everyone involved in the case. Oh, and as is often the case in brutal home invasions, the one left behind just happens to be a former government agent whose sole job for Uncle Sam was to figure out how to kill as many terrorist/dictators/despots as possible without leaving any trace.

So Clyde offs as many innocent people as possible, all the while spouting about “justice” at least 10 times in every conversation. Apparently, no one involved in the film has any sense of irony.

The Blu-Ray’s two discs contain both the theatrical release and a slightly gooier unrated cut, as well as a host of special features. However, after the bad taste left by the film itself, you probably won’t care.

— Timothy Hiatt

Category: Columns, Digital Divide, Monthly

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