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"The Insider"
Review written by: Alex Sandell


"Is it just me, or do you feel
really bored?"

What's the story?

Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), head of research and development for the Brown & Williamson Tobacco corporation, gets canned from his job and is persuaded by Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), a producer from 60 Minutes, to blow the whistle on the company, and tobacco companies like it, by revealing that they are adding fun things such as ammonia to cigarettes to make the nicotine punch that much more powerful, and addictive.  60 Minutes, a program that claims to answer to no one, but really answers to CBS, the television network about to merge with Westinghouse, decides it would be a smart move to air Wigand's interview segment without Wigand in it.  They fear that if they air the interview, the corrupt tobacco industry may hold them partially responsible for violating a confidentiality agreement that Wigand signed with Brown & Williamson.  In the meantime, Jeffrey Wigand is losing his family, good name, and life by a gigantic smear campaign put on by the drug dealers at Brown & Williamson.    

So how is it? (Get to the point, already)

Michael Mann (Heat, Last of the Mohicans) needs to get a damn editing machine.   His movies all seem to be good 90 minute films that are stretched into about 180 minutes of excruciating mediocrity.  Although most critics "ooh" and "awe" over his crafty directing style, I find it about as entertaining as watching paint dry, in a Church, during the hottest day of the summer, with no air-conditioning, and a Priest that only speaks Latin.   

I would like to say Mann needed the time to do justice to the story of Jeffrey Wiggand.  I would like to say Jeffrey Wigand's story is one that needs justice done, but it has already been vindicated hundreds of times over.  I would like to say that the film took a daring new approach, and hit the corporations where it hurts, but The Insider is nothing but a "by the numbers" thriller (the traditional woodland creature even jumps out in an attempt to "startle" you) filled with so many product placements, it would do Austin Powers:  The Spy Who Shagged Me proud.   Finally, I would like to say that, despite its shortcomings, it was an intriguing film with a good story.  Sadly, the movie is only intriguing half the time, and filled up with moments so drab that they wouldn't even be worth watching as DVD extras, the other.

I can't understand why Michael Mann feels the need to bore his audience by making his films overly long.   The Insider is based on a Vanity Fair article, of all things.  Not a novel, a novelette or even a short story; just an article.  I could maybe see turning a decent magazine piece into a solid 90 minute film.  What I can't see, is taking a subject that everyone, outside of maybe a retard, or two, already knows about, and turning it into some sort of grandiose epic.   

There is only one thing to like in this film, and that is Russell Crowe's excellent performance as Jeffrey Wigand.  Crowe allows the audience to feel for the character, and all that he's going through.  Unfortunately, the movie takes an odd turn toward the middle, and drops Wigand as its lead, and begins focusing on Pacino's less interesting character.   This is just another in a long line of mistakes that prevent this picture from living up to its potential.  In the end, the creative team behind The Insider takes what could have been an amazing film and settles for something just barely adequate.  At nearly three hours, adequate just isn't enough.

What does it make you feel like eating?

Anything to keep you alert.

What are you selling us here???

In this century's worst casting move, that annoying Pepsi girl who somehow convinced the mainstream public that she's actually cute, plays Jeffrey Wigand's daughter.  This accentuated the film's over-all feeling of being nothing more than a big, dumb product placement.    Even outside of the mutated Pepsi freak, there's so many product placements in The Insider that listing them is not even worth the effort.  What it boils down to is this:  you can squeeze a lot of advertising into three hours.   Maybe Michael Mann can base his next movie on my last sentence.  It could be a gripping three hour tale of Little Debbie snack cakes, mutant Pepsi girls with weird voices, and USA Today ads.  

If it won an Oscar, what would it be?

Destroyed by a director who doesn't know the word "cut!" - The Insider

On a scale of 1-10?

5 (for good performances and a story which was intriguing three years ago.)

Agree? Disagree? Wanna have cyber-sex? Email me at alex@juicycerebellum.com

Text (Copyright) 1999 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved]. If you copy this, without my permission, I'll make sure your life is as slow moving as a Michael Mann film.

Pic (Copyright) 1999 Touchstone/Disney [All Rights Reserved]. 

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