I kept getting distracted writing this, as I was also watching Stone Cold Steve Austin’s opus The Condemned on cable. I don’t even think I could come up with five words about that flick. Luckily I don’t have to.
Damon in bad wig shocker!
The true(ish) story of legendary corporate whistle-blower Mark Whitacre, and his part in the undercover investigation of the monster food processing corporation Archer Daniels Midland’s involvement in an international lysine price fixing scam in the mid-90’s. No, wait! Come back!
In Steven Soderbergh’s follow-up to the low-key The Girlfriend Experience, he drafts his old Ocean’s compadre Matt Damon to take the lead role of Whitacre, the overweight, bespectacled and gloriously bewigged company VP. The role he was born to play? Could be. I’ll tell you this for nothing though: after just a couple of minutes I couldn’t even picture Jason Bourne anymore. He totally inhabits this middle-aged geezer in over his head, who doesn’t seem to realise where his reality ends and his fantasy begins. Scott Bakula is FBI agent Brian Shepard and Joel (Community) McHale is his partner Bob Herndon, and together they are Wyld Stallyns! Or maybe they’re Mark’s handlers and, eventually, his friends. Both are excellent, with McHale reminding me a lot of Timothy Olyphant as US Marshal Raylan Givens in Justified. There are actually a lot of comedians featured in the movie – such as Patton Oswalt, Thomas F Wilson and Rick Overton – all showing their skills in dramatic roles.
The script is an adaptation by Scott Z. Burns (Contagion) of the non-fiction book by former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald. While the book is straight-forward reportage of the events concerned, Burns’ screenplay turns the story into more of a black comedy with the addition of Whitacre’s first-person narration which becomes increasingly more manic as the situation spirals out of his control. Though set between 1991 and 1996, Soderbergh’s camerawork and in particular his intertitles evoke a more 60s-era caper/spy flick. The real hero of the film is unquestionably the great Marvin Hamlisch, whose score is the perfect match for Soderbergh’s stylistic choice. I could buy that soundtrack tomorrow and it would live quite happily in my iPod (other digital music players are available). It is only towards the end of the film when Whitacre’s bi-polar disorder is diagnosed that the score takes a break, so as not to be making light of the man’s genuine illness.
Your enjoyment of this flick will depend entirely on whether or not you can buy into the presentation of real dramatic events as a good giggle. As I see it, Soderbergh has merely taken hold of the inherent absurdity of the situation and ran with it. I dug it, but I’m strange that way.