West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 7 | July 18 - 24, 2007

RKoch on Film

B“Rescue Dawn” (-)
Regrettably, this film is not very interesting even though the true story on which it is based is extremely powerful. The movie ends with an absurd scene which I believe was intended to make the U.S. government look ridiculous. Hopefully, it was not a reflection of what really occurred. More about this later on in the review.

Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale) was a U.S. pilot on a carrier during the Vietnam War. On a secret mission to interdict the Viet Cong using Cambodia as a supply route, he was shot down over Cambodia, captured and held by the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese who tortured their American prisoners. We know that is true based on Senator John McCain’s account of being shot down as a naval officer over North Vietnam and taken prisoner.

The mistreatment and torture scenes of Dengler while held prisoner in Cambodia don’t create the same tension that existed in the best picture on the torture of allied soldiers, “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” starring David Bowie. That film truly reflected the horrors committed by the Japanese in World War II. 

The failure of the dramatic scenes of “Rescue Dawn” was enhanced in the final scenes of two CIA operatives interviewing Dengler after he was rescued. In their dark eyeglasses and black clothing, the agents looked like CIA caricatures similar to the agents depicted in the movie, “Men in Black.” I love watching war films, e.g. “Band of Brothers” about World War II and “Platoon” about the Vietnam War. Regrettably, “Rescue Dawn” missed the mark.

“Talk to Me” (-)
This docudrama, based on the life of Ralph Waldo Greene, known as Petey Greene, is unappealing. I don’t know how accurate the script is, but I do think that if I were Greene, I would be unhappy with this film.

The setting is Washington, D.C. in the late 60’s, and the language is that of the street when the “N” word and the “F” word appeared in almost every sentence. (The NAACP just conducted a widely-covered, symbolic funeral to bury the “N” word forever.)

Petey Greene (Don Cheadle) is in prison where he performs as a D.J. While visiting his brother in prison, a radio program director, Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor), hears Greene’s performance. The WOL Radio station Hughes works for, an R&B station whose audience is primarily the black community, is not doing well. He encourages the owner, Sonderling (Martin Sheen), to hire Greene. Greene is hired to be the principal disc jockey, and with his gift of gab, the station’s ratings soar.

When Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in April 1968, Greene became a heroic figure when he sought to prevent lootings and killings from taking place in D.C. as they were in other cities. The arrival of the National Guard in D.C. is depicted by the use of old news clips of soldiers carrying machine guns sitting in trucks.

The film seeks to follow the rise and fall of Green’s career when he became a standup comedian in the vein of Mort Sahl. Many blacks in the film wear Afro wigs which are, for the most part, ill fitting. Some of the dialogue is anti-white and offsetting.

The audience on the Upper West Side where I saw the movie was about 50 percent black. At the end of the film, there was a smattering of applause. As I was leaving the theater, a woman asked what I thought of the film, and I replied that I thought it was terrible. She then said, “Yes, it could have been better.” Indeed, much better. Don Cheadle has superb roles to his credit such as those in the films “Crash” and “Hotel Rwanda.” Why he got involved in this movie is beyond me.

HS said: “The theme of the movie is rage against the Man. It is a 60s film, in attitude as well as in time. Petey is attractive, articulate and aggressive but committed to ending the rioting in the streets. “Talk to Me” is a picture of isolation and disengagement on people we normally think of as likeable and engaging.”

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