Richard Jewell has been through the meat grinder of law enforcement but can’t keep his job, Sheriff’s deputy, College campus cop. One night at the beginning of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics whilst ‘patrolling’ a grassy area at his new job, as a security guard, concertgoers are doing the Macarena when Jewell discovers a suspicious unattended backpack under a bench. It has a bomb in it.
Whilst at first the media, athletes and the general public see Jewell as a hero who saved lives, he even has a book deal in the works, hell rains down on him a few days later as the FBI and the media make his life unbearable when he is the prime suspect after one of Jewell’s former bosses squeals on him.
Jewell comes across as overtly trusting of law enforcement, even when the FBI use obvious ‘entrapment’ tactics to try and trick him as they don’t have any concrete evidence. His quirky lawyer Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) at one point says to him “stop trying to be their best friend, they’re looking to eat you alive”.
An article in the Atlanta Journal also buries Jewell, by journo Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), portrayed here by screenwriter Billy Ray, somewhat controversially as a cynical party girl who will even offer sex to an FBI Agent (Jon Hamm) to get information.
Tough going as Scruggs died in 2001 of a drug overdose so can’t defend herself.
Clint Eastwood as the Director likes these tales of a good man being hounded by authorities, remember the pilot ‘Sully’ Sullenberger. With Richard Jewell this is Eastwood’s signature ‘point the camera and shoot’ style, which is generally effective but here left some scenes wanting.
There’s a lot of historical source material but this isn’t covered from all sides, some of the FBI’s decisions are confounding and aren’t explained. Can they really be this inept?
Paul Walter Hauser does a great job as Richard Jewell, a relatively unknown actor who put on 10 kilos for the role; he plays him in an understated way, a bit dim witted but with a kind heart, who seems to take the media completely slaying him in his stride. Also look for Kathy Bates as ‘Bobi’, Jewell’s mother.
Overall this is a fascinating tale, but I came away from it wanting just a little more.
hallymustang rating : 3/5 🎥🎥🎥