David's "Knee-Jerk Sympathy"
Critic vs. critic.
Jan. 2 2002 1:24 PM

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Dear David,

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If the audience you saw Black Hawk Down with truly "whooped and cheered" during the film, that depresses me more about the audience than the movie, since there is nothing whoopable or cheerable in the film.

You write: "nothing Scott shows of the carnage (apart from injuries to Americans) suggests that he has any moral doubts about war. (And you don't have to be a peacenik to have doubts about war.)" In my opinion, everything Scott shows expresses his doubts—this is one of the least gung-ho big-budget American films ever made—and, for that matter, calling the Somalian engagement "war" almost suggests you think we were the invaders. Remember that the purpose of our troops was to protect U.N. deliveries of food and aid to starving people. That the warlords preferred their people to starve if they could not profit from those deliveries. You summon up knee-jerk sympathy for the non-white targets of American bullets without reflecting that we were on a humanitarian mission against hunger. That seems to me an adequate context for the story.

About Bully, you write: "I almost lost it during one actress's monologue about her father killing her mother with a claw hammer and having sex with the body for three days. It's right out of the book—it's literally true—but Clark presents it as a lurid sociological-horror striptease. Yuck." As I recall, she said it as a character like that might indeed say it.

Interesting that Ali and LOTR have so far passed without comment.

Still waiting to hear more from Jonathan and anything from Tony!

Best,
Roger

Roger Ebert is the Chicago Sun-Times' film critic.

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