| The Red Right Hand
Although Los Angeles is ridiculously big this film manages to weave and interlock a story about the struggles against racism in a city thriving with ethnic diversity. Several different threads take this film from start to finish, each character victims of racism but also guilty of it. This raises a lot of questions and discussions for the viewers; are we truly void of judgement? do we not see a person/group of people and instantly judge them on their appearance or ethnicity? I find it a deeply fascinating subject -the notion of social ideals, tolerances and prejudices- which is nodded at in certain films but never have I seen it done this boldly. You see, the comments people make are no different from what people say/hear but the unique aspect of this film is that there is no specific ethnic target. Every race gets put on the block in this film, caucasians, asians, africans, middle-eastern people, etc. [I'd like to add that I'm not conforming to the whole 'african-american' thing, although the characters displayed in this film were American the issue is universal]
The blunt political incorrectness is truly wonderful. There's nothing more amazing than a realistic sounding script that makes everyone (and their subsequent actions) so believable. The Iranian shopkeeper [Shaun Toub] at the start of the film wanting to buy a gun to protect his store and family [as many Americans do] gets subjected to ignorant remarks by the gun-dealer who simply assumes he's an Arab planning some "jihad attack" and proceeds to rant on about "flying planes into your mud-huts and watch your friends dying." Which is a typically ignorant thing to say, that someone of Middle-Eastern origin [Persian] is no different from an Afghan. However, in a city that seems to yield only hatred for him and 'his kind' Farhad becomes a racist himself, who believes that the man that fixed his lock [Michael Pena] was in on the raid of his store. This leads him to take his newly-bought gun to the locksmith's house.
It's really quite difficult to describe any small detail of the film without going to great depth. For example, the case above. Daniel -the locksmith- was doing a job for the District Attorney's wife [Bullock] who wanted the locks changed the next morning, assuming that he'd sell the keys so his 'hommies' could break in later. The next day Daniel is fixing Farhad's lock when he realises the problem is actually with the door itself. He attempts to tell Farhad, who jumps to the same conclusion and tells him not to cheat him. Daniel in a fit of rage starts to say the same line slowly over and over, as if to spell it out to this 'foreign' guy. Then, as I said, Farhad's store is broken into and the walls have been sprayed 'Towelhead' 'Go Back To Iraq' etc. The vandals broke in through the back door so Farhad assumes it was the guy who fixed the lock. Then he finds out that the insurance company won't pay anything as he was told by the locksmith that the door needed to be replaced. In his rage he goes to Daniel's house with the gun just as his daughter is getting home from school. It all falls in so easily that it's quite difficult to separate any of it, which should be impossible for a place of that size but it seems so plausible due to Haggis' [who is also responsible for Million Dollar Baby] astounding writing skills.
The visual style is phenomenal, going into slow-motion as the characters reach a moment of understanding or awareness, but not in a clichéd manner, as my description no doubt sounds. What's left over is an extremely powerful movie that says everything on it's mind. I heard that Haggis was inspired to write this after being carjacked - an event which plays a reoccurring theme for Anthony & Peter [Ludacris & Larenz Tate]. I doubt this film will change people's views or opinions and that's for the one simple flaw I could find - and there is one. You walk away finding yourself saying '...and everyone learned a valuable lesson.' The problem is, the lessons they learn aren't enough, their redemption is brought about through self-realisation instead of trauma. This may be Haggis' way of saying that we don't have to see a starving child in Africa to suddenly give money to charity, that the little thing should spur us on, but realistically it won't and sadly doesn't. Real change comes through shocking personal trauma, it's quite sad but true [although as a psychologist I should point out this isn't ALWAYS the case!]. Many times in this film when a character has the chance to learn, through regret and guilt, giving them time to think over their actions it's denied and replaced with a happy-sappy moment. The reason that it may not have worked is that all the interlocking characters wouldn't have met their own end and killing off a good 2/3 of the cast [as I would have in my version..... in my head] would have sullied the story a little... possibly.
I dunno, I'm still undecided on that bit. Having said all that, it's still a remarkable addition to anti-racism films that I would rate up there with American History X.
12th August 2005
The Scene To Look Out For:
I honestly can't think of a single scene that stood out for me, as the whole package was simply glorious... if I had to pick I would say the scene where Sandra Bullock slips on the polished wooden floor and falls down the stairs, badly spraining her ankle and left a whimpering mess at the base of the stairs. Why? I'll tell you why! Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous THAT'S WHY!
Sgt. Ryan [Dillon], the racist police officer who you hate at the start of the film for humiliating one black couple. Then later hearing about his father's health & history, and the acts by which he has the opportunity to do the right thing [to do his job rather than getting kicks]. I found it to be Dillon's finest role and a bold move for any actor - to play such a hideous bigot who is only reformed by being confronted with one of his victims in a situation of life and death.
"I just had a gun pointed in my face and it was my fault because I knew it was gonna happen. But if a white person sees two black men walking towards her and she turns and walks away, she's a racist, right? Well I got scared and I didn't do anything and ten seconds later I had a gun in my face. Now I am telling you, your amigo in there is going to sell our key to one of his homies and this time it would be really fucking great if you acted like you gave a shit!"
In A Few Words:
Intelligent and insightful this movie is a rare and brilliant gem.