'Redacted' Fake, Tedious; Fictionalized War Account Politically Bullies Viewer

Article excerpt

Byline: Peter Suderman, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

At the beginning of "Redacted," the latest salvo in Hollywood's season-long war on the war in Iraq, a young soldier wasting time in his barracks improvises a monologue for a friend's video camera. He warn that, in the battle zone, "the first casualty will be the truth."

It's an apt statement, but only about the movie that follows.

Director Brian De Palma's fictionalized account - press materials bill it as a "fake documentary"- of a wartime atrocity committed by American soldiers is by turns brutal and boring, a movie that desperately wants to be seen as portraying reality, but instead offers only an ugly inversion of it.

Presented as a collection of documentary clips from various sources, the film chronicles the events surrounding the rape and murder of a young Iraqi girl. All of the clips are entirely fake, allowing Mr. De Palma to make up the details as he goes along.

Of course, that means an endless parade of barbarous behavior, with U.S. troops alternately portrayed as either simpering and ineffectual, cruel and borderline psychopathic, or - in the case of the officers and overseers - craven and indifferent, willing to bend the truth to protect the military's reputation at all costs.

There's not much of a story, but what little there is centers around a group of troops forced to guard a nameless checkpoint. One of them, Angel Salazar (Izzy Diaz), a wide-eyed innocent with a voyeuristic streak, conveniently hopes to be a documentary filmmaker, and much of the fake footage is from his camera. Another, Lawyer McCoy (Rob Devaney), the closest thing to a hero in the film, tries to be a voice of reason, but mostly flails and whines about the efforts of the two racist goons whose idea it is to initiate the film's pivotal event.

Those two louts are drawn in obvious, almost hammy, strokes - they display Confederate flags, casually use racist epithets, browse soft-core porn, shrug off the wrongful killing of a pregnant woman as being "like gutting catfish" - yet they are the driving force behind all the film's meaningful events. These characters succeed and survive, while anyone with a shred of decency is either killed or psychologically scarred for life. …