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Why, in the lexicon of movie issues, does the subject of immigration figure so low? Immigration is something that touches or preoccupies most people in one way or another. There's a rich vein of dramatic potential to be mined - in social dislocation, cultural unfamiliarity and conflict both trivial and violent. When it does form either the backdrop or narrative of a film, you can be sure that the tone throughout, or the ultimate conclusion - even if the film fancies itself as "frank" and "edgy", such as in the case of Oscar-winner Crash - will still be along the lines of teaching the world to sing with one voice. Why can't we just get along, goes the plaintive cry? After all, far more unites than separates us, Coke is the real thing, etc.

There are three reasons, perhaps. First, the struggle of people in a new land is seen as inherently dramatic. There are those all-important obstacles to overcome - more often than not, negative attitudes on the part of the hosts - which, any properly equipped screenwriter will tell you, are essential to your story "arc". Second, it would not occur to most of these writers or directors to approach it any differently, so steeped are they in political orthodoxy. This means that the immigrant will largely be well-meaning and come up against boneheaded racism or exploitation. Stephen Frears's much-praised Dirty Pretty Things - with its cast of blameless illegal workers and music-hall villains from the Home Office, is a perfect example.

But the final reason might have more to do with pure commerce. If you're the head of a studio, you'll think twice about alienating massive sections of your potential audience, especially at a time when more and more movies are being made with 14-year-old Mexican boys in mind. Hispanic immigration into the US is, for better or worse, of momentous import right now, and that means box office. Best perhaps to attempt to be all things to as many people as possible-to make your message, well, universal.

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Leon Haller
September 14th, 2009
3:09 PM
Very good review, upon casual reading; less so in mulling it a bit. In typically British (literate, understated) fashion (well, British of the old-school), you have elucidated why this film was so much more disappointing than it promised to be. Still, there are several flaws in your reasoning, and lacunae in your interpretation. First, if universality were uppermost in a filmmaker's (or at least producer's) mind, why tackle an inherently 'divisive' subject like immigration at all? There will always be endless variations on the old staples: romance, alien invaders (I mean the kind from other planets), parent/child conflict, rogue government agencies, deranged ax-wielders, etc. Second, no producer worth a week's salary would idiotically assume that the audience for a film starring 78 year old Clint Eastwood would primarily consist of teenage Hispanics, or non-whites generally (or even white teens). Today, Clint's audiences consist overwhelmingly of those of us middle-aged white men who were teens or younger during his glory days (in the 1960s-1980s), when his movies could hardly be called "politically orthodox" (I believe that is synonymous with "politically correct", which means something like "culturally New Leftist"), at least by then or now current Hollywood or global cinema standards. What is far more interesting, at least in considering this film, is the possibility that Clint himself sincerely adheres to the naively (and slightly old-fashioned) liberal 'assimilationist' nonsense, whereby all the peoples of the world are really just the same, if only we would all (in practice, the native-born; in reality, only the native-born whites of historically white nations) make the effort to 'get to know' each other, and hence basically demographically interchangeable, apart from some charmingly 'diverse' (and mostly 'enriching' - to the natives, that is) cultural eccentricities, which of course, must be treated With the Utmost Respect. Why would Dirty Harry make such piffle? Why do whites throughout the Western world continue to lack the courage even to admit to themselves, let alone to state publicly, that the Third World immigration invasion of our ancient fatherlands has constituted at once the greatest threat to our collective civilisational survival that we have ever faced, as well as, on the part of our 'leaders', the greatest series of acts of treason that mankind has ever witnessed? Yes, it would be nice to see a film EVER express the point of view or endorse the interests of a white majority somewhere in conflict with some kind of non-whites. To ask why such an obviously themed film is NEVER made is immediately to bump up against much more profound questions of, as intimated, a world-historical nature: why are whites the only race concerned about their own racism (which means in practice that we are the only race that is NOT overwhelmingly ethnocentric, or racist)? How has a race once proudly supremacist become pathetically unwilling even to defend its own culture? How has a formerly imperial race become unable even to discuss the obvious - that we are now the victims of 'reverse colonialism', that immigration = imperialism? What is wrong with us, how has this suicidal mentality captured a large swath of the thinking public (especially the thinking public), what is the morally legitimate response of an ordinary patriot, when does violent resistance to state-imposed 'diversification' become not only morally permissible, but mandatory, etc.? These are the real questions this ridiculous and mendacious film raises. Finally, on the subject of mendacity, the reviewer ought to have said something more about the structure of the film, and its narratively duplicitous conclusion. Watch the trailer, as I did several times prior to other films. Clearly the editor tried to instill in the audience a sense of suspense and incipient action (there were many scenes of guns, guns being fired, assorted violence, etc.) The intent was to trade on Clint's historic action-persona. More egregiously than the trailer, the movie itself is structured in a classic suspense manner, a series of worsening incidents and tensions, with appropriately portentous music, creating an expectation of a cathartic action finale. To call what finally occurs a "cop-out" is an understatement. Morally, politically, culturally, racially, and even cinematically, this film is a sell-out. Goodbye, Clint, and good riddance! At least we'll always have Harry Callaghan, and the Man with No Name.

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