Reacting to Redacted

Brian de Palma’s new anti-war movie, Redacted, has found a number of high profile supporters. Needless to say, I’m not one of them, and I’d have a tough time recommending the movie to anyone.

If there’s a reason other than morbid curiosity to go see the film, I think it’s the one Kyle Smith suggests in his New York Post review:

De Palma is extreme, visceral, usually in bad taste but almost always riveting.

…There are ways that a fiction film can approach closer to the truth than a real documentary. Documentarians suffer from the anthropologist’s problem – their presence may make the people they observe act differently.

I own a copy of Scarface, and I won’t deny that the combination of de Palma’s polished surface gloss and raw exploitation-movie power is sometimes compelling. But any significant exposure to his oeuvre (which I recently watched a significant slice of for a piece), reveals him to be less of an entertainer and thinker than a knife wielding back-alley mugger, or at least a street creep who forces you into a corner and flashes you. His films have got some power, sure, but mostly because he’s a crude cinematic bully.

The best argument you can make for him is a stylistic one, but Redacted’s stylistic innovations just don’t hold up. It’s supposed to be a (fake) found-materials documentary, but the materials he finds are too convenient at best, and occasionally just impossible. I’m not sure I entirely agree with Chris Orr when he says the film is “too inept too offend,” but it’s certainly inept, enough so that whether it’s offensive or not need not even be a factor in making the decision not to see it.