Cast: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm
Director: Clint Eastwood
You can say a lot of different things about Clint Eastwood, but one thing everyone can agree on is that he’s one of hardest working people in Hollywood. To be almost 90 years old and still directing a movie every year shows a great amount of love and dedication to his craft and a work ethic that very few have. Even though the quality isn’t exactly what we’re hoping for anymore, he still continues to direct solid, thoughtful movies with almost every attempt. With Richard Jewell, once again we see Eastwood take on an interesting and controversial subject matter with a potential to make a splash at awards. A bit clumsy and questionable at times, Richard Jewell manages to get through its awkward portions to tell us a tragic story about a man just trying to do what he saw as right.
The film follows Richard Jewell (Hauser), a security guard aspiring to do something more with his life and a passion to work in law enforcement. While working at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Richard discovers a bomb that goes off and injuries hundreds, but his discovery prevented the chaos from being worse. While initially hailed as a hero, the press soon turns on Richard and makes him out to be the main suspect of this attack. With both the government and the media going after everything he loves, Richard and his family spend most of the 129 minute runtime trying to clear his name. As an ensemble performance, Richard Jewell maximizes the efforts of almost all of its star-studded cast. In particular, Hauser embodies the “bumbling Southern redneck” stereotypes almost perfectly but also gives a performance that shows a flawed man in a situation that many of us can empathize with. While Hauser is the main reason why this movie works, credit must also be given to the supporting members of this cast. Specifically, Rockwell, Bates, and Hamm all do a fantastic job in their smaller roles but still provide the necessary emotions required in each scene. While the film as a complete project is emotionally gripping and interesting, I have to question the motivation behind Eastwood’s desire to make this movie. Eastwood’s political leanings are no secret, and it may muddy what should’ve been a compelling and tragic tale. Did Eastwood truly make this movie because he wanted the world to show us how a man who did the right thing in a moment of panic had his life ruined, or did he make to sow distrust for the media and further the divide the general discourse of the country? I can’t be certain on either side, but it makes you question the validity of the movie as a whole. I think the days of Million Dollar Baby are long past Eastwood, but Richard Jewell shows us he still has a lot of talent left up his sleeve. I don’t know how many movies he has left, but as long as they’re at the same level of quality as Richard Jewell, I’ll be sure to tune in.
Overall, as another addition to Eastwood’s career, Richard Jewell is a solid installation and provides the same level of pathos that Eastwood has done so well in the past. After seeing Hauser in I, Tonya, I was hoping that he would get more opportunities to showcase his talents and it looks like Eastwood utilized him properly here. With a cast as strong as this one, there’s little to now chance this movie would be bad, and it was only a matter of how good was this movie going to be. Between a strong script and talented actors, Richard Jewell overcomes some of it’s sloppy messaging and creates a world that is relatable and understandable at its very core.
Overall Score: 7/10