Our Editor in a rare display of affection for his wife, would bring her home bunches of flowers almost every day and his generosity was soon rumbled when his wife saw him untying them from a whole pile of bouquets tied some railings at the side of the road. From hero to zero. It was much the same for Richard Jewell a security guard initially hailed as a hero for saving lives at a terrorist bombing of Atlanta 1996 Olympics until he was wrongly accused of being the terrorist.
Here was a humble, mild mannered man initially working as a mail room clerk for a big legal firm where he befriends a new to the firm lawyer Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) . Portly and still living with his mum (Kathy Bates), Jewell , like Gemma Collins, had a dream but whereas hers was to be a size 8 his was a far more realistic desire to be a cop. So spool forward a couple of years and he’s now a security guard on a college campus. But with little power comes great zeal when it comes to enforcing the no alcohol on campus rule. When a gobby, ‘I know my rights’ student complains when he confiscates his shandy the Principal dismisses him.
Undeterred and comforted by is momma he finds work as a security guard this time on the 1996 Atlanta Olympic park and on duty during a Kenny Rogers concert. Fraternizing with the cops and reveling in what little power he has on such a high profile occasion he’s keen to demonstrate his knowledge of police procedure even though he’s not a cop he just believes he’s one. Eagle eyed and spotting anyone he thinks is up to no good only to find them perfectly innocent. Yet what he does spot is an abandoned ruck sack which he alerts the cops to and for once it IS something…..a set of pipe bombs confirmed by a phone call from the terrorist. In the words of the philosopher and polymath Martine McCutcheon, ‘This is my moment, This is my perfect moment’ for Richard Jewell to swing into action helping cops clear the area but not in time before the bomb goes off killing a spectator and injuring many more. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that anyone realising that Kenny Rogers was playing didn’t make the ultimate sacrifice and throw themselves on the bomb.
Unfortunately for Richard Jewell, though he is initially hailed as a hero he, much like Gemma Collins, also fits a profile but whereas she is a boorish, empty headed talent vacuum that fits the profile of a reality TV star, Richard Jewell is a single white male, obsessed with security having been dismissed from previous jobs in that line putting him in the sights of the FBI compounded further when the college principal rings the hotline naming him as a suspect in line with that same profile.
Richard Jewell is another Clint Eastwood directed film who increasingly is filming true life stories (The Mule, Sully, The 15:17 to Paris being the most recent) and this shows up the FBI’s woeful investigation, too eager to leap on their man with Agent Smith (Jon Hamm) all too easily giving up their suspects name to journalist Katy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) who is all too free with her sexual favours if it means getting a scoop with Richard Jewell’s name now splashed all over the papers as the suspect. It’s Bryan (Rockwell) now the only lawyer in his own business and urged on by his bored East European receptionist to take Jewell’s case on in what he uncovers as being a shockingly inept FBI investigation that at times appears as if the agent is willingly setting up Jewell even going as far as to invite him along to be filmed on the pretext of him contributing to a presentation of bomb awareness but actually carrying out a criminal interrogation. Like the recent ‘Just Mercy’ it’s a lawyer who is cast not as a money grubbing ambulance chaser as so many are but actually crucial to protecting an innocent man wrongly accused and vilified.
As Richard Jewell actor Paul Walter Hauser is a relative unknown having had small roles in ‘Late Night’ and ‘I, Tonya’ and he gets his moment to shine and he is very good in the role unable to stop himself from thinking he’s helping out a fellow cop even though the consequences for him are catastrophic an it’s the bigger stars that include Jon Hamm, Sam Rockwell, Katy Bates and Olivia Wilde who play support to him. Eastwood has a reputation for medium budgeted, efficient shoots never going over schedule and this is a low key affair even down to the explosion itself and it plays a little too much like a TV film that misses the presence of an old school film star like Eastwood.
Here’s the Richard Jewell trailer……..