Brian DePalma’s “Redacted” did something that is not easy to do: It left me briefly at a loss for words. But given that words are what a movie review is made of, I shall select a few: Repugnant, repulsive, anti-American propaganda.
Whereas “Lions for Lambs” could have been written by a first-year college film class, “Redacted” could have been written by the “Ministry of Information” of Iran or Hamas.
The premise of the movie is a montage of different video sources, including videos taken by US soldiers, surveillance cameras, insurgents, and American civilians using YouTube-like programs and blogs. But what this movie is really about is summarized well in the “Plot Keywords” on IMDb.com: “Gang Rape”, “Iraq War”, and “Pregnant Woman Murdered”.
The film begins with PFC Angel Salazar (Izzy Diaz) taking video while conversing with other soldiers in his platoon. One soldier, Reno Flake (Patrick Carroll) gives us the movie’s tagline: “The first casualty of this entire conflict is gonna be the truth.” But the movie ends up being something that Goebbels might be proud of, as it repeats a “big lie”, namely that all American soldiers are murderous cretins or impotent collaborators and that the Army itself is cruel, hateful, and devious, with tedious and furious frequency.
After Salazar tells us that “Basically here, s*** happens”, the film moves to a faux French documentary focusing on a checkpoint in Samarra, Iraq manned by Salazar’s platoon. Soldiers are patrolling near the checkpoint and we are shown one being rude to kids, an overweight soldier sweating, and various bored soldiers flipping a lighter open and closed, squeezing an empty water bottle, or fidgeting with a machine gun cartridge. Those unflattering views represent the best treatment that a soldier receives in “Redacted”.
Other “bests” in the film include
• The most civil behavior demonstrated by soldiers: When a car pulls into a checkpoint, the soldiers are inexplicably rude and aggressive to the car’s passengers who are following every order they’re given. When a soldier asks the translator if the Iraqis are afraid of a large bomb-sniffing dog, another soldier responds “Who gives a f**k? F**k ‘em!”
• The most flattering description of soldiers: Flake, who was shown earlier with a Hustler magazine, is asked by his sergeant what he did before joining the army. Flake’s answer: “I was hanging out, f***ing around, getting drunk, trying to stay out of jail”. The sergeant then says “This right here is the cream of the army recruits”.
• The most complimentary description of Iraqis by a soldier: The sergeant then proceeds to insult some local kids as “smiling soccer-playing s**t-birds”.
But it gets much worse than that.
Back at the checkpoint, a car goes through, not speeding, but not stopping. The machine-gunner, Flake, who was (of course) asleep, awakes with a start and blasts the car. We then see a bloody pregnant woman being taken to the hospital where she dies and we learn that she was in labor and on her way to give birth. Of course, the Americans killed an attractive, young, pregnant woman. How else would De Palma have it? Indeed, not once is a US soldier shown combating a terrorist; only harassing or murdering civilians.
When the soldiers are back in the camp, Salazar interviews Flake and Specialist B.B. Rush (Daniel Stewart Sherman), a fat, ignorant redneck who is “dumber than s**t, but he’s loyal.” Salazar says “Yesterday, Flake blew away his first civilian” and asks Flake how he feels “about that Haji (he) smoked”.
Flake’s response made me want to leave the movie (I didn’t), and boycott De Palma and Mark Cuban forever (I shall, and I encourage Dallas residents to shun the Mavericks until Cuban apologizes or dies): “The only language these sand ni***rs understand is force….Truth be told, it wasn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. I mean, I thought my first kill shot would blow my mind, but it was nothing. I was like gutting catfish.” A couple minutes later, he adds “Waxing Hajis is like stomping cockroaches.”
A member of the platoon is killed by an IED which leads to the real “plot” of the film. The platoon raids the home of a young girl who frequently passes through the checkpoint. They rough up the family and take the father away. That evening, the soldiers are playing poker and getting drunk when Flake suggests going back to the house for the girl.
Long story short, the one soldier who wants to stop them, Lawyer McCoy (Rob Devaney) isn’t strong enough to do it (and is shown in night-vision style, making his eyes glow demonically, so even the good American is evil.), Rush begins to rape the 15-year old girl while Flake goes in the next room to check on the other three cowering family members, a young girl, her mother, and the grandfather. Suddenly there is machine gun fire and Flake comes out holding an old rifle, saying that the grandfather was going to use it, so Flake killed them all. They laugh at the 15-year old and continue raping her. We learn later that when they finished, they shot her in the face and burned her body. Normally, I wouldn’t include this sort of detail in a movie review, but it’s the only way to both express how horrible the movie is and to encourage you all not to see it, not to contribute one dollar to “Redacted”’s hateful enterprise.
The acting in the movie is mediocre at best. The cast tries so hard to make the soldiers look bad that you never really forget they’re acting even when you’re angry at what they’re portraying. And while the movie isn’t dull, “snuff films” aren’t technically dull either, but that doesn’t mean a person should ever see one (and I haven’t). It is obvious in the first five minutes that this movie is intended to demonize our military. We don’t need 90 minutes of nearly-brain-dead soldiers crowing over murdering and gang-raping Iraqi girls to clarify the point.
Later, in retribution for the rape, Salazar (who watched but didn’t participate) is captured by insurgents and beheaded, with De Palma showing us his throat being cut, blood spurting on the floor, and giving us a gruesome crunching sound as the terrorist literally rips the head off the body before leaving the body lying in a field with Salazar’s head sitting on his chest. The Bedouin who finds the body doesn’t act with revulsion, but rather by calling others to “come see this” as if he were watching his favorite team make a good play; clearly De Palma wants us to agree with him.
Most of the rest of the movie is about McCoy feeling guilty and wondering aloud what he was doing in Iraq, the Army being made to look like deceitful idiots trying to protect Rush and Flake, and angry pierced-and-tattooed American youth arguing that a quick death is too good for our “fascist” soldiers.
Every moment of this movie is an attack on the US military. Every soldier is made to look evil, stupid, or feckless, everything from being rapists and murderers right down to being mean to kids. DePalma says in an interview that he’s clear these are the bad apples, but since he never shows any other character types the obvious implication is that the whole army is a barrel of bad apples.
In their desire to criticize the war and crucify the military, De Palma, Cuban and friends have taken to heart Goebbels’ belief that "It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success." But Americans are not highly susceptible to such transparent hatred which may explain why this film was first released in Spain and not yet widely released in America. At the time of this writing, about 1,050 people had rated this film on IMDB. There is a clear trend that the older (and wiser) the viewer, the less they liked the film. More interestingly, the average vote from a US viewer is about 4/10 while Non-US viewers rate it above 7/10.
This movie will likely do fairly well in Europe and very well in the Middle East, much as films about Jews making bread with childrens’ blood can do well in such places. In fact, “Redacted” is all to similar to those films in intent. The style of the film as a series of apparent documentaries interspersed with fake news broadcasts will be effective with unsophisticated viewers and many will believe what they are seeing to be true or at least representative. The movie will be shown as a recruiting tool by Al Qaeda and will cause at least a few ordinary people to hate and mistrust America. It wouldn’t surprise me if a few of those took violent action (or financed it) as a result. That blood will be on the hands of Brian De Palma and Mark Cuban. Unfortunately, that’s probably just what they want.
For self-hating Americans offering aid and comfort to the enemy, “Redacted” earns the full five Jane Fondas, as well as my undying enmity for those who created, financed, and acted in it.
HUMAN EVENTS gives "Redacted" our highest rating: Five Fonda’s