DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP (director: Robert Redford; screenwriters: Lem Dobbs/based on the novel by Neil Gordon; cinematographer: Adriano Goldman; editor: Mark Day; music: Cliff Martinez; cast: Robert Redford (Jim Grant/Nick Sloan), Shia LaBeouf (Ben Shepard), Julie Christie (Mimi Lurie), Sam Elliott (Mac Mcleod), Brendan Gleeson (Henry Osborne), Terrence Howard (F.B.I. Agent Cornelius), Richard Jenkins (Jed Lewis), Anna Kendrick (Diana), Brit Marling (Rebecca Osborne), Stanley Tucci (Ray Fuller), Nick Nolte (Donal Fitzgerald), Chris Cooper (Daniel Sloan), Stephen Root (Billy), Susan Sarandon (Sharon Solarz), Jacqueline Evancho (Isabel Grant); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Nicholas Chartier/Robert Redford/Bill Holderman; Sony Pictures Classics; 2012)

 
"An old-fashioned political drama that's well-intentioned and heartfelt."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An old-fashioned political drama that's well-intentioned and heartfelt that looks back on the radical members of the Weather Underground--American extremists on a mission to overthrow their government by violent means because of the Vietnam War. Director and star Robert Redford ("Quiz Show"/"Lions for Lambs"/"The Horse Whisperers") blends together realism with social conscience messages, and even though I can appreciate the messages about not all radicals being the same I don't appreciate how heavy-going the pic becomes trying to force-feed the sensible belief that young people can start out as idealists but as they mature realize from their new experiences there's more to that in making solid life choices.

An impressive number of talented well-known older actors ( Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie, Sam Elliott, Nick Nolte, Stanley Tucci, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Cooper and Richard Jenkins) take small parts and are reduced to awkwardly mouthing the filmmaker's political agenda. The film is plodding as an investigative journalism piece, as seen through the eyes of a young generation, ambitious, glory-seeking, brash young reporter on a small-town newspaper, Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf). The incident the film revolves around involves the group of Weather Underground members, who went underground to hide after 30 years ago they robbed a Michigan bank and killed the guard.

It's based on the novel by Neil Gordon, and is written by Lem Dobbs.

Upstate New York housewife Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) turns herself into the FBI for the above mentioned heist. A snooping reporter for the Albany newspaper, Ben, uncovers that do-gooder solid citizen Albany lawyer Jim Grant is Nick Sloan (Robert Redford) is wanted by the FBI for murdering the guard. Widower suburbanite Nick deposits his 11-year-old girl Isabel (Jacqueline Evancho), in a risky move, at a NYC hotel with his younger NYC residing doctor brother Daniel (Chris Cooper) and goes on the lam as he tries to elude a country-wide FBI surveillance manhunt led by the intense, one-dimensional, F.B.I. Agent Cornelius (Terrence Howard). Nick tries to locate his old flame and fellow terrorist involved in the bank robbery, Mimi Lurie (Julie Christie), so she can clear his name of the robbery and murder. To reach Mimi, Nick has to make contact with radicals through the underground network, those he hasn't seen for 30 years, such as Wisconsin lumberyard owner Donal (Nick Nolte) and Ann Arbor pacifist professor Jed Lewis (Richard Jenkins). We discover the unrepentant chic radical Mimi uses her speed-boat to smuggle weed and lives the good life with current boyfriend Mac (Sam Elliott) in Big Sur. With the word received that Nick wants to see her, Mimi shuffles off to meet the father of her twenty-something law student (Brit Marling), who has been adopted by an old police acquaintance and doesn't know who are her real parents, in a remote forest log cabin on the Canadian border in Michigan's Upper Peninsular.

By the pic's end, life lessons are gained by all except the FBI. Every radical in the pic is seen as someone who rightfully cared about stopping a bad war and over the years all have become reformed revolutionist, if you will they have compromised their core violent beliefs. The obnoxious young reporter, who is ridiculously depicted as being an aggressively better investigator than the FBI, after a severe lecture by Redford, who reminds him of the importance of doing the right thing, doesn't rat out Christie's location to the FBI after finding the wooded hideout ahead of the FBI. The obnoxious kid beams with pride as Redford passes him in the hallway of the court and gives him a nod of approval for also learning a valuable life lesson. It's that kind of a gooey pic, but I still liked it despite finding Shia miscast, that it lacked excitement despite its volatile subject matter and the pic's smug contentment with itself for being so smart a bit stifling. But it was provocative in the way it presented the old radicals as changed people and adroitly recognized that radicalism fails, no matter how right it thinks it may be, when it resorts to violence instead of exercising its many other options to get across its points. It has things to say that are still relevant in America's current War on Terrorism, and though terribly flawed is still better than most recent political thrillers because it's not afraid to say what's on its mind rather than give us a typical Hollywood cop-out pic that's afraid to upset its main body of paying customers.

REVIEWED ON 4/28/2013       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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