Unrated, 3 stars
Making a documentary about sophisticated hackers like Anonymous, who function underground and with a fluid and leaderless composition that has gone global, may have been just one of a myriad of challenges that director Brian Knappenberger faced in assembling We Are Legion: The Story Of The Hacktivists. The strange marriage of film and cyberspace aside in this decidedly sympathetic group portrait, Knappenberger – who no, is not one of them I’m guessing, but actually a conventional director of commercials and feature films for the likes of National Geographic and the Discovery Channel – had to tackle a host of thorny sidebar issues that kicked in as well.
Including the likely compilation of under the radar testimony and interviews, and then not actually showing them, from possible fugitives already on government watch lists. And a dilemma already faced by the directors of The Central Park Five, against whom and in reaction to an unlawful imprisonment lawsuit in the works against New York City by the wrongly convicted subjects of the film, that government has already issued a subpoena demanding all the film’s outtakes.
So was Knappenberger looking over his shoulder for any authorities on espionage duty while pursuing his story, and did that cautious approach influence his rather tame take on such a volatile subject? And on the other hand, will critics out there fear giving a less than glowing appraisal of this movie, looking over their collective shoulders for peeved hackers?
A distinct possibility indeed – on the part of Knappenberger, not the film critics. Which lends a kind of wag the dog directing vibe to the proceedings, as Knappenberger seems to allow his subjects to set the agenda for the ensuing discourse. As a brainiac couch potato activism (the hacker movement we’re told, was born at MIT) somehow balloons, and morphs into the Occupy Movement and global uprisings like the Arab Spring.
Though We Are Legion limits the conversation mostly to those already outed by the system, tending to take the drama and suspense out of a subject necessarily fueled by that. While those revealed faces populating hacktivist culture may astonish as much as engage audiences, in essence a nerdy succession of vocally defiant eggheads. So no, not a single bearded guerrilla armed to the teeth in this bunch. And yes, some confessing to still living in mom’s basement.
But most provocative about We Are Legion, would have to be the online communique networking in pursuit of information liberation and global justice that precipitated the Occupy movements and Middle Eastern uprisings, admittedly here as much of a surprise to the Anonymous collaborators as viewers of this movie. While the division within the movement between those with a political thrust and others like the hackers who delighted in going after Tom Cruise and the Scientologists because they just wanna have fun, could have benefited within this documentary from more analysis and insight.
Rated PG-13, 2 1/2 stars
Slipping out of his comfort zones for a bit as both Madea and director of his own movies, Tyler Perry tries on a new persona for size in Alex Cross as, well, Morgan Freeman. Sort of.
In kind of an all-in-one followup, reboot and prequel to the previous big screen incarnations of the James Patterson popular Alex Cross crime novel series, Perry takes on combo detective/police shrink duty. And that Freeman previously conjured in Gary Fleder’s Kiss The Girls (1997) and the Lee Tamahori 2001 potboiler, Along Came A Spider.
And not quite yet Morgan Freeman’s FBI sleuth, but seriously mulling that vocational switch as Perry’s Detroit investigator Cross segues into middle age slowdown. While having to measure up physically on the beat to his younger, hotshot partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns), in chasing down those ripped and rowdy perps on the loose.
And though priding himself on his nearly psychic gift of discerning what’s going down inside those criminal minds before their thoughts evolve into premeditated actions, Cross finds himself meeting his match in wits and way beyond in terms of where-with-al. When he encounters a local lunatic dubbed Picasso (Matthew Fox), so named for the depraved drawings he leaves behind at his horrific crime scenes. A super-scary military vet who apparently honed his psychopathic skills in combat previously, Picasso hires himself out when not doing battle with multinational tycoon bad guys, while indulging gleefully in rape and torture as his guilty pleasure amusements on the side.
But after being pursued by Cross and Kane, Picasso orchestrates elaborate payback in retaliation, involving significant others connected to the pair. Which sets in motion a series of attacks and counterattacks around town, and at times rapid fire role reversals as to exactly who may be chasing whom.
Helmed by action director Rob Cohen (The Fast And The Furious, XXX), Alex Cross goes for the collective audience jugular with extreme, nearly apocalyptic mayhem and gory violence. And as masterminded by a deliriously depraved Fox ferociously in character, who at times seems somewhat too over the edge nutty to actually pull off such intricately concocted dastardly deeds.
But which is always nicely counterbalanced with a subdued yet cool, calm and collected determined demeanor on the part of Perry, no matter what the imminent danger. And impressively demonstrating a surprising broad range of acting talents, even though Perry might have used more than a little help with her adept scoundrel busting skills, from that Madea.