September 18, 2016
After graduating as Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe really gets himself into the strangest and seriously oddball film characters. His first post-HP film was a gothic horror, "The Woman in Black" (2012). After that, he played lead roles in films like "Kill Your Darlings" (2013) to "Horns" (2014) to "Victor Frankenstein" (2015), none of which really hit it big in the box office. He played supporting roles in bigger hits like "Trainwreck" (2015) and "Now You See Me 2" (2016). Radcliffe returns to the lead in this new one.
When an illegal cache of Cesium goes missing, the FBI was alerted to watch out for terrorist groups who may use the radioactive material to make dirty bombs. Senior agent Angela Zamparo chooses a young idealistic agent Nate Foster to go undercover and infiltrate some local white-supremacist groups who could be planning something explosive for their cause. As the neo-Nazis accept Nate into their subculture, his immersion takes him deep into their lifestyle and philosophy.
Daniel Radcliffe played Nate first as a shy, classical music-loving loner who later had to turn into an intense skinhead racist, channeling Ed Norton, Jr. from "American History X". For the most part, he was quite convincing in his portrayal of both aspects of his character, acting-wise. I liked how he was trying to balance his principles while being undercover in a hateful organization. However physically, it was never realistic that short and scrawny Nate actually spent three years as a Marine in Iraq as he supposedly did. There were times though when his face appeared too suspiciously nervous not to be noticed.
Toni Collette was cool and snappy as Agent Zamparo, Nate's mentor in the undercover business. Seth Numrich was hateful as a young hothead thug Roy.Tracy Letts was so slimy as Dallas Wolf, a man who incites racial hatred via his internet talk show. Chris Sullivan was an imposing presence as the burly and bearded Andrew Blackwell, National Director of the Aryan Alliance. Sam Tramell played Gerry Conway, a genteel family man and engineer with whom Nate developed a deeper friendship, representing the other extreme of the spectrum.
What was very interesting about this film was its very extensive, documentary-like exposition by writer-director Daniel Ragussis about the range of White Supremacist movement in the United States -- from the neighborhood bullies to the religious fanatics to the organized terrorists. The plot sort of got derailed in the messy final act, but the first hour was very engrossing and fascinating. It shows that terrorism does not always have to come from outside a country's own boundaries. Evil from within the homeland exist, and this film delivers that sobering and disturbing truth with strong impact. 7/10.