A lifeless political thriller from 1970, which reunites the director-star team from "Cool Hand Luke," "WUSA" has a decent cast and not much else. It's a bloated, meandering mess, and it's not hard to see why no one's yet bothered to give it an official video or DVD release.The WUSA of the title is a stridenly right-wing Deep South radio station where Rheinhardt (Paul Newman, also co-producer), a drunken, beaten-up loser right out of Hemingway, finds employment as an on-air personality. Rheinhardt's just there to read the news and collect his paycheck, but next thing you know, he's getting dragged into a full-blown fascist conspiracy.
This is where WUSAcould have developed into a tense little drama. That it decidedly doesn't can be blamed largely on the script by Robert Stone (adapting his book A Hall of Mirrors), which is rather too obviously the work of a writer more at ease with the wide-open spaces of the novel. WUSA lacks a strong narrative line--a subplot involving Anthony Perkins takes up way too much screen time--and Newman's character is just too apathetic, too directionless, to become terribly compelling; it gives the film a hollowness at its core.
Above all, WUSA is debilitatingly talky, one overlong conversation after another, and when the film finally explodes into violence toward the end--a riot breaking out at a political rally--it feels less like a climax than a jarring change of tone. (At this point Newman takes the stage and delivers a memorably bizarre speech, dripping with irony as he praises the continued occupation of Vietnam: "When our boys drop a napalm bomb on a cluster of gibbering slants--it's a bomb with a heart." It's worthy of Bill Hicks.) But even this scene comes off as flat and uninvolving."WUSA" is reasonably well made, but it's hard to imagine anyone enjoying it, and it's too much a record of a specific time and place to be of much interest now.