October 28, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: IMPERIUM

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Traci Letts, Devin Druid, Pawel Szajda, Nestor Carbonell, Sam Trammell. Directed by Daniel Ragussis. (2016, 108 min).

Considering its disturbing - and timely - subject matter, Imperium is a squandered opportunity.

A dangerous chemical, capable of being used to create a massive dirty bomb, has gone missing. While the rest of the bureau is worried about a foreign terror attack, Senior Agent Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette) suspects the threat could be domestic; more specifically, a well-known white supremacist organization. She enlists Nate Foster (Daniel Radcliffe), a relatively inexperienced FBI agent to infiltrate the group. At first, most of them appear to be your garden variety skinheads, but as Foster begins to gain their trust, those who are actually responsible for planning the attack are well-connected, intelligent and organized. Most unnerving of all, they are as unassuming and low-profile as your average suburbanite.

Imperium will likely draw obvious comparisons to American History X, but it's more of a procedural than an examination of what turns people into Neo-Nazis. In fact, most of the white supremacists are one-dimensional caricatures, with one notable exception: Sam Trammell is truly chilling as the well-liked, congenial & outwardly normal Gerry Conway. The group’s soft-spoken leader, he's by-far the most complex character and not in the film nearly enough. Radcliffe gives an earnest performance (you sure can't accuse him of phoning-it-in), but because Foster isn’t particularly interesting to begin with, scenes meant to fill us with tension fail to ignite like they should.

Hogwarts' 10-year class reunion was unexpectedly depressing.
While sporadically interesting, Imperium is never truly involving. A film like this should get under our skin, make us uncomfortable and reveal a side of human nature we’d prefer not to see, but can’t help but be fascinated by. Instead, with the exception of the Conway character, we really learn nothing about the workings and people of white supremacist organizations that we didn’t already know or suspect. It's well-acted and proficiently directed, but ultimately not in the same league American History X.

FEATURETTES: “Living Undercover”; “Making Imperium”.
Cast/Crew Interviews.
Audio Commentary (by director/co-writer Daniel Ragussis & co-writer Michael German).
Digital Copy

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