‘Richard Jewell’ movie review: This Clint Eastwood-directorial is flawed, but fierce

‘Richard Jewell’: Eastwood’s mastery lies in extracting brilliant delivery from every actor on screen  

Security guard Richard Jewell is unwaveringly kind. Aspiring for a career in law enforcement, the 33-year-old overweight Atlanta native hands out free water to a pregnant woman and his colleagues at a concert; he’s always kind to his mother, hugging her as they enjoy a Kenny Rogers performance; keeps a man’s drawer stocked with Snickers so he won’t go hungry; and holds the law and its executors in the highest regard. Jewell is also peculiar: he hasn’t paid his taxes in a couple of years; collects an astounding number of guns to hunt; likens his security guard position to actual police work, taking it too seriously even out of jurisdictional boundaries. The popular opinion is that he’s odd. It doesn’t help when teenagers cruelly mock him with taunts of ‘lard and order’ and the Pillsbury doughboy.

In Richard Jewell, Clint Eastwood pans out a stirring narrative of an ordinary man whose compassion and generosity are horribly exploited by those in power on mere suspicion. It’s an ugly albeit metaphor for real-life where anyone cut from a slightly different mould is egregiously labelled. The audience gets a front seat to the trials and tribulations the real-life hero who saved several lives by calling attention to a bomb at the July 27 Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996. Portrayed by comedian and actor, Paul Walter Hauser, Jewell’s life plummets into despair when he’s accused by the FBI of planting the bomb himself. As Jewell’s lone fight and his steady belief in the law crumbles, the consequences pile-up. A man’s life is shattered and so is the willingness of any other ordinary citizen to do the right thing. Eastwood’s direction, bordering on activism on behalf of Jewell, effectively does what it’s supposed to.

Richard Jewell
  • Director: Clint Eastwood
  • Cast: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde
  • Storyline: Richard Jewell spotted a bomb during a concert at the Centennial Olympic Park but now the FBI has targeted him as their primary suspect

But in persevering towards that lone focus, the director delegitimises his film’s primary antagonists. FBI agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm), a fictionalised character, unlawfully manipulates his suspect’s naiveté and trust with methods that are honestly unbelievable. But perhaps worst of all, is the portrayal of Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), a ruthlessly ambitious journalist who breaks the story of the FBI’s investigation into Jewell. Insulting of her fellow female colleagues, disparaging their work and using sex as a means to get a scoop is a lazy and awful sexist characterisation that shouldn’t exist in this day and age. Especially when the facts pertaining to her acquisition of the information aren’t available and Scruggs, who has passed away, cannot defend herself. If calling out the corruption of institutions was meant to be a political statement for Eastwood, it’s failed miserably. The shockingly uni-dimensional and prejudiced depiction is frightening in how easily it can influence vulnerable sensibilities.

In spite of Richard Jewell’s glaring flaws, Eastwood’s mastery cannot be denied when he extracts brilliant delivery from every actor on screen. A highlight is Kathy Bates as the protagonist’s suffering mother, her son’s champion and rock. But it’s Walter Hauser’s breakout performance that dominates from start to finish, overpowering the film’s shortcomings.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 9:12:33 PM |

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