UnCivil Liberties

Dir: Thomas Mercer
Star: Penny Perkins, Tony Grocki, Mark Musto, Glenn Allen

Homeland Security computer programmer Cynthia Porter (Perkins) is proud of her new surveillance tool - but when a test backfires and catches her in its net, she realises the potential for abuse. She forges a long-distance alliance with a radical militiaman and hacker, Sam Norton (Grocki), who has renounced violence after being ordered to execute a comrade. Can they destroy the new surveillance system, before Porter is caught, or Norton's colleagues resort to more direct means, resulting in the loss of more innocent lives? Credit to the film for at least trying to be even-handed: both sides come over as genuinely believing their actions are in the best interests of the country, and it's nice to have characters who realise that their paths are problematic. The bureaucratic banality of Big Brother is nicely captured as well.

However, the film's structure is lumpily uneven: Porter is the focus for most of the first half, then all but vanishes in the second. Similarly, Norton is suddenly thrust into center-stage after his character is barely developed. And in the final act, we suddenly get a bunch of Islamic fundamentalists showing up, who've never even been mentioned before. The script badly needs a rewrite, and to be honest, Perkins isn't up to the task of playing a troubled heroine either - she's neither charismatic enough, nor sympathetic enough, to allow the audience to latch onto caring much about her. The budget, while clearly low, is rarely blatantly obvious, though the unusual artwork on the walls at "Homeland Security" was a bit odd. While seriously flawed, it's a brave stab, at a difficult subject that Hollywood hasn't yet had the guts to tackle.

[The film was released in the US on April 10th, through Ariztical Entertainment. The DVD includes behind the scenes footage: see the Ariztical site for more information]

April 2007

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