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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.39%
Worth A Look: 34.78%
Average: 8.7%
Pretty Bad39.13%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 17 user ratings

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by The Ultimate Dancing Machine

"Boring commentary on the Age of Aquarius"
2 stars

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 WUSA could 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.

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originally posted: 01/26/02 19:46:32
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User Comments

3/13/17 Anne Selby Some powerful politically relevant footage; Newman and Woodward couldn't carry it off... 2 stars
8/17/12 Mark Vanselow Increasingly relevant. Everybody in the film is in on a hustle. Gets better each time. 5 stars
10/30/11 mr.mike The parts never really come together. Newman was good. 3 stars
1/20/11 Sectionhand Forty years hasn't made this piece of crap smell any better . 2 stars
12/03/10 nowecant disagree completely. excellent insight on american political machismo 4 stars
2/17/10 Mweber Extremely pertinant, even in 2010. How can your critic say it's not of much interest now? 5 stars
8/14/09 dmilo Disagree with your critic. I remember this as an interesting gritty film. 4 stars
9/28/08 dsjulian Cloris Leachman should have won the BSA Oscar for her performance as the crippled girl... 5 stars
9/26/06 carolj & one of the few to get NOLA right, when it was real NOLA 4 stars
3/29/06 shepardjessica-1 Undervalued 4 stars
7/02/05 Faye prophetic piece...right wing zealots use media for ending social programs for the "unwanted 4 stars
11/10/04 Daniel Kremer This Newman-Foreman production is especially relevant to the Bush Administration zeitgeist. 5 stars
10/31/04 B. Kirk Especially relevant considering who owns most of the media these days! I liked the movie. 4 stars
7/28/04 L. Jardine It's not a great movie; but has good NOLA scenes. 3 stars
1/30/04 Martin Lane Instructive look at the insidiousness of right wing media ownership 4 stars
10/16/03 Douglas Soesbe Am I the only one who likes this movie? Yes, it's polemical, but quite passionate. 4 stars
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  19-Aug-1970 (PG-13)
  DVD: 08-Feb-2011



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