Steal This Movie Reviews
As for the film, I?m both surprised and disappointed by it. It feels like a made for TV vehicle. Each scene is shot with a by-the-books vanilla simplicity. Plus, the sets aren?t always believable; they look like a series of back-lot quickies. Still, the flick is astute at incorporating archival footage with modern, spliced-in material. In other words, it?s sometimes hard to tell what?s live and what?s Memorex. It makes me wonder whether the fake news story footage was created by a far more accomplished editor than the one who ruined the set sequences?
The movie is also a little slavish in its interpretation of the events surrounding Hoffman?s life. If there?s room to interpret an action so that Hoffman comes out looking shiny, that interpretation is followed. For instance, there's a scene where Hoffman is busted selling large quantities of cocaine during a sting operation. The movie sugar-coats it as political harassment...that Hoffman?s being setup to take a fall because of his beliefs. This is a convenient version of the story. Hoffman actually was caught selling large quantities of cocaine, which seems to me reason enough to arrest him, with or without any malevolent posturing by the government. To the film?s credit, however, most of the details carry the weight of accuracy, specifically because the filmmakers brought in Judy and Stew Albert (Abbie's friends,) Anita Hoffman (Abbie's ex-wife,) and Gerry Lefcourt (Abbie's attorney) as consultants. It would be hard to compile a better list of consultants since all of these people were around during Hoffman's early career and were involved with most of his most famous moments.
Strangely, though, my greatest pet peeve against Steal This Movie is its soundtrack. The music is from the appropriate era, but only a few of the songs are originals. Most are covers, admittedly from respected artists, but really, how hard could it have been to secure the rights to the real music? Maybe they didn't try. No doubt they consulted some hip youngun' who informed them that all those dusty old hippie songs needed to be filtered through Cheryl Crow's throat before Generation Y would stick a fork in them. Whatever the reason, the decision to update one of the best decades in music has, in my opinion, doomed the project to perpetual play on Sunday afternoon television. The only thing worse than a best-of album is a tribute album, especially a tribute album that's pretending to be the real deal.
The movie does have one strength...the performances. I love Vincent D'Onofrio. He's a chameleon of the highest caliber and brings his A-game to every project. Full Metal Jacket, JFK, Men in Black, Ed Wood...heck, I think he's been hit up to play Orson Welles twice. He sorta looks like the dude. When they make a biography about Meatloaf, they'll undoubtedly hit him up for that too. And before you mention The Cell as a counter argument to his acting supremacy, I'm ignoring that disastrous flick because it's way too crappy to be blamed on any one man. Long story short, D'Onofrio dials in a stellar Abbie Hoffman. I'd also be remiss to ignore the rather believable performance by Janeane Garofalo as Anita. Sure, she plays herself in every movie, but it actually works for this role. And lastly, Kevin Pollak is very good as Lefcourt.
Would I recommend Steal This Movie? I guess I'd have to say yes. Despite its glaring peccadilloes, it made me want to learn more about Abbie Hoffman, which seems as good a reason as any to give the film a nod.