November 3, 2007

"Michael Clayton"

From my American Conservative review of the legal thriller starring George Clooney:

"Michael Clayton" churns out the same old plot about a murderous multinational rubbing out whoever gets in its carcinogenic way.

Tilda Swinton, so aristocratic and androgynous that she makes Cate Blanchett look like Angelina Jolie, plays the corporate counsel for UNorth, which peddles its cancer-causing herbicide in 62 countries. She pays Clooney's law firm tens of millions to fight weed-killer lawsuits, but then their lead defense attorney (Tom Wilkinson of "In the Bedroom") goes all Howard Beale of "Network," ranting about how working for UNorth has put blood on his hands while stripping naked during a deposition.

This sounds entertaining, but isn't, because auteur Tony Gilroy ignores even the ripest targets for satire, such as the plaintiffs' contingency fee attorneys, always a colorful subspecies (Homo avaricious vulgaris). Instead, he maintains a steady tone of doleful indignation.

Our common law doesn't work well with cases in which blame can only be assigned statistically. Say the defendant's herbicide raises the chance of cancer by 50 percent. So, one out of three customers who get cancer are victims of the company, while two out of three aren't; but science can't tell which is which. The contingency fee attorneys bring suits from everybody who might have been harmed, while the defense tries to insinuate to the jury that the plaintiff deserved to get cancer. It's an ugly but fascinating slice of modern Americana, but not one you'll hear anything about from the one-sided "Michael Clayton."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


dumb-dumb said...

Well, perhaps you could write the script. You would have to dumb it down for us a little, and perhaps more for the critics, but that's okay.

I'm sure your readers could help with ideas.

Evil Neocon said...

Liberty Film Festival pointed out that back in the day, very Leftist screenwriters like Dalton Trumbo (actual Communist Party Members) made films that emotionally connected to people while films like Michael Clayton can't.

Why? Because of the lack of social distance -- Trumbo considered himself a working man of working class background and not a socially superior "better."

Clayton sounds like the constant social positioning that characterizes elites and wanna-be elites -- who would kill for a Monsanto-like firm? Overbill yes. Kill? One might get dirty.

josh said...

So YOU"RE the guy who is seeing those George Clooney movies! Stop it,you're only encouraging him! Georges real role is to be a middle-aged greying going-thick-in-the-midriff Paris Hilton. Running around with his BFF's like Brad,Matt and Ben! :) Dating his cocktail waitressess and going all "Kennedy" on them(motorcycle wipeout). And being praised for his good looks--when he is,interstingly,unlike his buddy Brad,one of those guys who doesnt age all that well. Chicks have to pretend he is sexy,like they have to pretend theyve seen even ONE of his movies,outside of Oceans!!

Udolpho said...

This really was a terribly boring movie. Also the ending made me laugh out loud. It's the old "A-HA I got you on tape!" gag, really even for Clooney it was desperately stupid.

hey steve said...

really even for Clooney it was desperately stupid.

That flick the Cloonster made with the former Mrs Tom Cruise where she deactivated the suitcase nuke with a hairpin in act III. That was a classic. I can't remember the title but it is Congressman Tom Lanto's favorite movie.

The bad guys were Serbian supremacists and George could really rev up his competitive moralism machinery. How dare the Serbs attempt to maintain the Christian culture and historic borders of their own country.

Look for even more Serbian terrorist villains coming to a theater near you. But before you go in just remember to have a quick look around the mall parking lot for actual Muslim terrorists suffering from Sudden Jihadi Syndrome.

George Clooney rocks!

Steve Sailer said...

I kicked around the Serbs-as-new-villains idea in my review of "Behind Enemy Lines" in 2001:

The film industry has been looking for a new Ethnic Group You Love to Hate to replace Germans, who, let's face it, are long past their sell-by date as Hollywood's default villains.

Will Serbs work out as their replacements? After all, the Serbs were the Designated Bad Guys in the Balkan wars. Plus, there aren't many Serbian-Americans, and, since they are white Christians, nobody cares if they complain about stereotyping.

Still, as movie villains, Serbs don't seem like promising substitutes for Nazis. It's so much more gratifying to watch some arrogant, facial tic-ridden movie German being thwarted from conquering the world.

In contrast, the morose Serbs seem to take a gloomy satisfaction in anticipating that ultimately the world will once again conquer Serbia, thus proving their conviction that everybody's out to get them.

It's just more fun to watch Hollywood heroes beat up on Nazi sadists than Serb masochists.

Anonymous said...

Serbs have also been baddies in TV shows such as 24 and L&O: Criminal Intent. An incredible number of movie baddies have been Englishmen. I'd say they're catching up to white Southerners in the Hollywood evildoer category.

Udolpho said...

Didn't the first season of 24 have a Serb villain played by Dennis Hopper? The first season was the only tolerable one, the camp factor and the suspense were pretty well-balanced.

I don't watch it anymore but my understanding is that the series finally started using Islamic extremists as bad guys after like four seasons of evil white men and this of course led to much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments among the PC intelligentsia.

Mark said...

The film industry has been looking for a new Ethnic Group You Love to Hate to replace Germans

The Swiss worked after all those lawsuits accusing the Swiss of holding onto the bank accounts of Holocaust victims. At the very beginning of "The World is Not Enough," James Bond made a joke about it to a Swiss banker - TWICE!, for the unwashed who surely were too dumb to catch it the first time.

I expect a return of Swiss villains to the screen now that they've elected "fascists" to run their government. The Swiss are suave, smart, rich, Nordic, and sorta German - just the kind of villains Hollywood loves. I guess then, Steve, you can engage in your own little ethnic grievances.

Mark said...

Weren't the villains in the first season of "24" Serbian?

Anonymous said...

In "The Peacemaker" the bad guy is not a serb supremecist but is, in fact, trying a united nations booster who is trying to blow up a small nuclear weapon to get the attention of the West, that was previously just watching the slaughter.

This one sophisticated plot twist was the only interesting thing about that movie.

Josh said...

udolpho and mark: I came to "24" late,after several seasons. I thought it was a stunningly good show. I was becoming a fanatic! But then,stupidly,I rented the 1st season(yup the whooole thing) and over a period of days...I watched. It started out SO good,...but show by show it became stupider and stupider and more harebrained by the,uhm,hour. 1st, as noted,the bad guy is a Serbian Christian. Played by the awful Dennis Hopper,with an accent that couldnt be serious.And the whole cockamamie plot,I ended the dvd's thinking,"This is shite!" When the black Senator had a daughter who had been raped...and I thought,"No,dont say it!" Yep,by a WHITE GUY... UGH! Trash. I hope the writers lose their strike!!

Udolpho said...

Yes but season one features lots of Sarah Clarke and aside from Keifer she is about the only worthwhile actor the show has ever had.