After Pfc. Jesse Spielman was sentenced to 110 years in prison for his role in the rape and slaying of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, and the murder of her parents and 5-year-old sister, Spielman's own sister, Paige Gerlach, screamed: "I hate the government. You people put him [in Iraq] and now, this happened." The hate and anger Gerlach expressed on the day of her brother's sentencing is the hate and anger that Brian De Palma expresses in his new HDNet movie, Redacted. But De Palma is not only angry at the government, the people who made the war happen; he is angry at American society and its core values. The evil of the war as a whole, and the evil of the murder of Abeer and her family specifically, have their source in the evil at the core of this society. De Palma denounces America.

Because it is so angry, Redacted is the first important fictional film on the subject of America's current and senseless occupation of Iraq. Because it is so angry, the film crosses the line into hysteria. Yes, Redacted is out of control, out of its mind. But what other emotional register could adequately express the desperate state of things in Iraq—the hourly crimes, the daily murders of civilians, the rising weekly toll of American deaths, the monstrous monthly expense of this endless hell (over $8 billion)? De Palma is mad as hell! He is not going to take it anymore!

Because it is so angry, Redacted gets a lot of things wrong and confused and ultimately fails to provide the situation in Iraq with any real depth, background, or solution. But the film runs for only 90 minutes and was made for under $5 million dollars with unknown (untested) actors. Couple these financial and artistic restrictions with the desperation of the situation in Iraq and what you get is not a deep film but a raw one. The only attempt at depth in Redacted is the brief story of the man who murders the Iraqi girl and her family after she is gang-raped.

The story of the rape is taken from reality. It is the story of Steven D. Green: the story of how he and the four other men one day drank a lot of whiskey, ate a lot of chicken wings, played a little golf, and decided to rape a girl who lived near the checkpoint they operated. In Redacted, the rape and murder are reenacted with only few or small differences. (In reality, three soldiers raped the girl; in the movie it is two. In reality, the Hispanic soldier was involved in the rape; in the movie, he doesn't rape her but flees from the scene before the crime is over. In reality, the man who stood guard, Spielman, did nothing to stop the rape; in the movie, the man who stands guard, Lawyer McCoy, tries to stop the crime but fails.) De Palma, however, forces us to watch the rape and killings and then forces his fictional murderer, Reno Flake (Patrick Carroll), to give the audience an explanation for it. This explanation/confession is the movie's only moment of depth.

The fictional Reno is evil because his country is evil. His violence has its source back in the motherland, back in his hometown, back in his childhood. In fact, Reno is a direct copy of an original evil, his older brother, Vegas. Vegas killed an American family with the same brutality that Reno killed the Iraqi family. Now this is the breaking point of the film: Reno tells us that he and his brother got their names from their father, who was a heavy gambler and loved the capitals of American gambling—Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada. These cities represent for De Palma the core of American culture: money. The sick sun of the American solar system is money; and its dark and dead planets are the war, the crime, and Reno Flake and his moons of bad friends.

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Yes, a Hollywood director (a man who has made millions entertaining Americans with dumb films) locates American money (and therefore consumerist culture) as the sun of all evil. Yes, it doesn't make any fucking sense, but that is precisely what makes this movie great: It's not trying to be sensible, rational, polite, considerate; it's trying to be a blast of truth, an explosion of honesty, a demolition of the lies that erected the occupation of Iraq. recommended

charles@thestranger.com