Atlas Shrugged Part II – 2012
Director John Putch
Starring Samantha Mathis, Esai Morales, Jason Beghe, Patrick Fabian, Kim Rhodes, Richard T. Jones, D.B. Sweeney, Robert Picardo, Ray Wise, Diedrich Bader, Arye Gross, Thomas F. Wilson, Paul McCrane, Rex Linn, Teller, Michael Gross, Bug Hall
Screenplay by Duke Sandefur, Brian Patrick O’Toole, Duncan Scott based on the novel by Ayn Rand
“I don’t want to travel on any type of transportation where the public has access to the emergency brake. I would hate to go off the track at a hundred miles an hour because “Gus”, thought he saw a woodchuck”.
Gus, in the case of Atlas Shrugged, Part II is some chick named Michelle, who is the lady friend of Government Hack Kip Chalmers (Rex Linn). What results is not a derailment, rather another effects deficient explosion in a movie filled to the hilt with them. Why she applied the brakes is sheer plot necessity. There had to be a disaster, no matter how improbable, to show that government is the root of all things bad, and things only get worse when they tinker with the pure process of innovation.
A couple of astounding developments occur in the filming of the second part of this conservative opus. The first is that Teller, of Penn and Teller appears in a speaking role. His words are few, but I have never heard them before. As stunning as it was irrelevant to the plot, it will be a lasting memory. If there is another memory from this film, it’s that the entire cast from the first movie is gone. Completely. Not a single holdover. It’s an improvement, absolutely, and it makes this second round more watchable.
Mathis taking the role of Dagny, works at least some dimension into her character. It’s been a long time since The Thing Called Love, heck, it’s been a while since American Psycho. She still can act, but this paper bag is a bit bigger than she is. Esai Morales…where the hell has he been? The last time I remember seeing him outside of television is Mi Familia, which is as epic a Hispanic-American story as I have ever seen. He is here, and for the first time, I think it’s mainly for his looks. Jason Beghe’s Hank Reardon is as much a coffee salesman as his predecessor, who I don’t feel like looking up. I won’t look up Beghe when I watch Part III, either.
The most curious replacement, though, is the supplanting of Michael Lerner, age 71 and Jewish, by Paul McCrane, a nearly albino 52-year-old Catholic best remembered for his role as the melting bad guy in Robocop and the cancer absorbing mutant Leonard Betts in the X-Files. Of course when the main job of their character, Wesley Mouch, is to be a government strong armer, I guess age, physical appearance and ethnicity does not matter.
McCrane was in the same gang as Ray Wise (working for Clarence Boddicker) in the classic RoboCop. In Part II, McCrane works henchman for wise as Head of State Thompson. What is the significance of this? Not much, I suppose, but it gives you better films to think about as you suffer through the drudge of watching Sean Hannity bitching at Juan Williams in some alterno-conservative universe where everyone on one side is so clearly in the wrong. Talk about typecast. Has Ray Wise ever played a wise, reasonable man? The trend is by no means reversed here. Everyone on the government side is pig-headed, except for one low-level bean counter, appropriately named Small, (Hall), who looks young enough to feel bad about what is happening, if not totally swayed. But it’s early, we’re only in Part II.
The improvement to the original is slight, and to some won’t feel like it’s any better. There is a worthy message here, but it is untrustworthy because the counter points are so ham-handed. The only thing this film should do is convince people some out of work actors will take any work on to pay the mortgage. Acting is acting. Storytelling…well that’s something else entirely.
There is talk that the third part of this film series (who knows where it ends) may just be a musical. Why the hell not? This series is a corpse and to quote Miller again:
“Surgery on dead people. What’s the worst thing that could happen? If everything went wrong, maybe you’d get a pulse.
(*1/2 out of *****)