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Richard Jewell: Clint Eastwood takes on FBI foul play and media manipulation

 

RICHARD JEWELL
directed by Clint Eastwood

Richard Jewell recounts the fascinating and often outrageous true story of the security guard who became the No 1 suspect for the Centennial Park bombing during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

It’s based on another excellent Vanity Fair article by Marie Brenner – whose investigations into whistleblowing within Big Tobacco were the basis of 1999’s superb The Insider – and veteran director Clint Eastwood adds yet another real American hero to his oeuvre, after Sully and American Sniper, to bring this story of FBI foul play and media manipulation to the big screen.

In the title role, Paul Walter Hauser’s (I, Tonya) portrayal of the shambling, dulcet-toned mother’s boy is as endearing as it is compelling, as Jewell’s obsession with joining the hallowed echelons of “real” law enforcement ultimately sets him up as the perfect patsy. As he digs a deeper hole with each well-meaning police interaction, we start to fear that this do-gooding citizen may be signing his own death warrant.

The only taint on Eastwood’s otherwise faithful account is Olivia Wilde’s awful reporter character, whose acting is grating and whose portrayal as a “sex-for-tips” journalist has been called-out by her peers as untrue and injurious.

Otherwise, the pace and grit of Richard Jewell show that at nearly 90, Eastwood is not losing his touch. With strong support from Kathy Bates as Jewell’s loyal mum and Sam Rockwell as his sandal-wearing lawyer, he has crafted a gripping thriller that places the blame for one man’s ruin squarely at the feet of those more powerful.

IN CINEMAS NOW 

★★★★

Video: Roadshow Films NZ

This article was first published in the February 22, 2020 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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