Magazine article Variety

Imperium

Magazine article Variety

Imperium

Article excerpt

Imperium

Director: Daniel Ragussis

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Sam Trammell, Tracy Letts

"You seem pretty mature for a skinhead," observes one of Daniel Radcliffe's white supremacist leaders in "Imperium," in which the former Boy Who Lived plays a nebbishy, classical-music-loving FBI agent under deep cover in the neo-Nazi underworld. It's a welcome acknowledgement of the unlikeliness of the casting, which turns out to be one of the film's chief strengths. While maturing male actors from Ryan Gosling to Russell Crowe and Edward Norton have strapped on boots and braces as a sort of early proof of the toughness and danger of which they're capable, Radcliffe's performance asks how someone danger-averse and not-at-all tough would ingratiate himself into that dark milieu.

Unlike "The Believer," "Romper Stomper," or "American History X," "Imperium" - directed and scripted by firsttimer Daniel Ragussis - is not principally concerned with exploring the political or psychological dysfunction that drives young men to join violent hategroups Indeed, though based on a story by former FBI agent Michael German (who based much of the narrative on his own undercover experiences), the film's depiction of the white-nationalist underground is ultimately background for a straightforward potboiler, and the film is at its best when it stays in that arena.

Radcliffe's Nate Foster is a brilliant agent, but wet behind the ears and disappointed to discover the jihadist terrorist suspect he's been tracking for weeks is really just a low-level functionary. And yet his ability to empathize with the suspect during questioning attracts the attention of a superior, Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette, all gum-smacking insouciance), who suspects an extremist white nationalist group is trying to build a dirty bomb, and thinks an Alex Jones-styled, right-wing web-radio host (Tracy Letts) might know about it. Desperate to make his name in the agency, Nate agrees to become her mole.

With nonexistent combat skills or field experience, Nate shaves his head and dives into white nationalist literature, learning all of the passwords and halfsecret codes he needs to pass for a fellow traveler, and inventing attributes (a military past, a knowledge of chemistry) that would make him a particularly attractive recruit. …

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