Normally, when filmmakers make a movie that can drive Bill O'Reilly batty, I'm right in their corner. Unfortunately, when said movie also makes me batty, I'm at a loss finding the words to devote space to their cause.
The movie that has both Mr. O'Reilly and me up in arms (for entirely different reasons) is "Redacted," and the man behind this film is none other than Brian De Palma, that man who still remains a maverick provocateur even in his graybearded years.
Of course, as any follower of De Palma's work can attest to, the man lives to start some drama through his films. (As I always like to say, your baby's mama has got nothing on De Palma! OK, I don't always say that; I thought that would be funny to say right about now.) You want me to bring up the number of feminists who wanted his allegedly misogynistic head on a stick when he made "Dressed to Kill"?
This time, it's those who believe he's vilifying our boys who are fighting in Iraq.
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"Redacted" is a fictionalized account of the 2006 Al-Mahmudiyah killings, where five U.S. soldiers gang-raped and murdered a 14-year-old girl after murdering her family. In De Palma's version, he uses various forms of media, from soldiers' camcorders to YouTube clips to international news footage to a pretentious French documentary (all fake), to splice together a story of a checkpoint unit coming apart when several of its men decide to go out one night and, in some grandiose attempt to get back at all the IED-planting terrorists who have killed their comrades, defile a teenage Iraqi girl.
Without a doubt, "Redacted" is harsh and unsettling. It's also unfortunately unengaging. By telling this story through a free-for-all of outsider media, De Palma obviously wants to comment on the truths and atrocities that the stateside media, he believes, is refusing to show us. But the story (written by De Palma himself) feels rushed and heavy-handed -- not to mention that the performances are the most artificial you'll see in any movie this year. For a movie with subject matter this intense, it's hard to take one moment of this movie seriously.
Of course, let's not forget that De Palma is unbelievably ripping off his own movie, "Casualties of War" (also known as the first and last time Alex P. Keaton and Jeff Spicoli shared celluloid space to play war). This time, one of the men (Rob Devaney) immediately becomes so morally conflicted, he even posts an anonymous YouTube clip.
It's hard to believe something so tacky, clumsily staged and badly acted comes courtesy of De Palma. Even when the man is off his game (hello, "Snake Eyes"!), he can still create some breathtaking moments of cinema.
Of course, you sense that his heart was in the right place. But this is Brian De Palma we're talking about here. I've never known a director who has used his heart less than he has. He should've followed his head on this one.