Playing the title character is Paul Walter Hauser, who not only looks the part, but has a the demeanor of a man of the south, projecting a person that grew up respecting those in the police force, and had fantasies of protecting and serving. The acting from this all-star cast, Kathy Bates in the role as Jewell's mother Bobi, Sam Rockwell as Watson Bryant- the vindicated lawyer of Jewell- and Jon Hamm as the central big bad FBI guy that's out to get you. All of those performances are good, well written in the script by Billy Ray. It is the character of Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), the Atlanta journalist that broke the Richard Jewell story, that is not only poorly written, but her name is dragged through the mud in the process. This is another example of Eastwood's confusion. The Unforgiven director taints the name of one person in order to prove a point about the tarnishing of another person's name. Why Dirty Harry? What's the purpose of this?
To give you context of this, there is a scene where Scrugg's character meets with Hamm's FBI agent at a bar, and is willing to do “anything” in order to find out the name of a suspect. It has been widely stated, Eastwood and Warner Brother's are being sued for the matter, that this was not who this journalist was. This fact almost ruins everything about Richard Jewell. The narrative does a good job of showing that Jewell was an American hero, someone that saved lives because of his quick work to discover the bomb and move people from the area. He deserves a movie that shows who he was, what made him react, but not at the expense of tarnishing another person in the process. And still, why now? Is it because you want our president to see that it can happen to anyone? Is it because you want audiences to know that the media and FBI are "the enemy of the people"? I'm sure you could find thousands of stories about people of color that have experienced even worse treatment from members of law enforcement. Just watch Ava DuVernay's When They See Us about the Central Park Five.
On top of all of these conflicting issues, is the sadness that surrounds the entire story. Jewell passed away before ever getting his public vindication and will most likely become a symbol for right wing bloggers to tear down others for their good and honest work. Similar to how Jewell's life was torn apart, uprooted, and placed into a spotlight that he never asked for, so will the family & friends of Kathy Scruggs. All of it because Clint Eastwood needs a villain. I still find the 89-year old to be a fascinating director, someone whose films I generally respect. Richard Jewell is a good movie, has great, maybe even Oscar worthy performances from Hauser, Bates, and Rockwell. I would just be going against my beliefs and views if I let Eastwood's carelessness slide by. Then again, it is just a confusing, cookoo world we live in these days. There's no more good guys and bad guys. Only the divided states of America.
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: RICHARD JEWELL
STARRING: PAUL WALTER HAUSER; SAM ROCKWELL; OLIVIA WILDE; JON HAMM; KATHY BATES
DIRECTED BY: CLINT EASTWOOD
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Richard Jewell is a conflicted and complex film that is as confused as director Clint Eastwood's politics. The question I couldn't stop asking myself, halfway through, in this movie about the security guard that went from hero to suspect of the 1996 Olympic bombing, is why now? Just last year, Eastwood made his senior citizen that “sticks it to the man” in The Mule, and before that he was making a heroic narrative in Sully. So what kept him from making Richard Jewell till 2019? I ask that question specifically because Richard Jewell is a movie about someone who was mistreated by the media and the FBI, it's a message against those establishments, which I guess is something that is cemented in the viewpoint of conservatives now? What Eastwood does precisely is play both sides, showing the story of a man who loved the law, his country, and the freedom's that come with it, while also showing just how ugly this country can be. Should we hate “these” Americans? Unfortunately, the message that some will take from it is that the story of Richard Jewell is not an anomaly, but something they think is a reoccurring trend, especially towards our current president. If Eastwood made Richard Jewell back in 1998 it would be the capturing of a moment. Making it in 2019 has to be a message to the Fox News viewing public, right? All of that does not mean this isn't a well made, acted, and engaging drama, Eastwood is still at the top of his game of connecting the lines. I just left Richard Jewell feeling extremely confused, even sad for the state of our world.