MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +1

Content: -4

Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Colm Feore, Amy Ryan, Michael Kelly. Thriller. Written by J. Michael Straczynski. Directed by Clint Eastwood.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Clint Eastwood directs Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich in a grim thriller based on actual events that occurred in Los Angeles, 1928. In the film, Christine Collins (Jolie) prayers are met when her kidnapped son is returned. But amidst the frenzy of the photo-op reunion, she realizes this child is not hers. Facing corrupt police and a skeptical public, she desperately hunts for answers, only to be further victimized by an uncaring and corrupt police department.

As she pushes authorities to keep looking, she learns that in Prohibition-era L.A., women dont challenge the system and live to tell their story. Slandered as delusional and unfit, Christine finds an ally in activist Reverend Briegleb (Malkovich), who helps her fight the city to look for her missing boy. Based on the actual incident that rocked Californias legal system, Changeling tells the shocking tale of a mothers quest to find her son, and those who wont stop until they silence her.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Filmmakers seldom entertain in the name of drama anymore. Instead, they pummel. Case in point: Clint Eastwoods brutalizing Changeling. So heavy-handed in its treatment of injustice and cruelty, it becomes porno-violent. By now weve all heard the expression, People are becoming desensitized by media violence. Boy, does this film give that statement credence. No one walked out, not even those who brought impressionable children.

First, were subjected to the wrongful treatment of Ms. Jolies character. To keep her from further embarrassing the police department, shes clandestinely hustled off to a psycho ward. Immediately we see the harshest looking health care attendants since Nurse Ratched. Coupled with the sounds of women inmates screaming, and visuals of them staring out of tiny windows from their cell doors as if they were Dr. Frankensteins rejects, and the discovery that many of the patients are there because they had the temerity to defy police authority, and the tableau quickly becomes a mixture of the poignant play Marat/Sade and those exploitive 70s women-in-prison movies. And when one defiant inmate slugs the nasty, unfeeling, Snidely Whiplash-like head doctor, he immediately orders her to be taken to Room 18. By this time I began hissing and booing (not out loud, though I wanted to). Of course, we all know what goes on in Room 18, right? The villainous orderlies tie her down, stuff a rubber thing in her mouth and jolt her with a little shock treatment.

Though this kind of sadistic activity has happened and maybe still does in housing for the insane, the directors visual treatment and the writers titillating dialogue give it a slightly comic, B-movie flair. At one point I suspected the asylum was in reality a front for a white slavery organization and that Ms. Jolies character and the rest were going to be sent off to the Middle East as unwilling prostitutes. Well, that didnt happen. But the women did have to undergo forced showers (with a vicious fire hose) and one nurse slipping on a glove for a private inspection of new arrivals. Again, maybe this happens. But it came across as a soap opera made by Playboy.

Oh, but you aint seen nothing yet, folks. Soon, we learn why the boy is missing. And others. It seems a nutcase kidnaps little boys and chops them up in his barn. Aided by an unwilling youngster, he abducts the lads, keeps them in cages until he has a group of five or so, then he starts hacking them to death. Blood splatters, children scream. This is not as amusingly handled as Ms. Jolies situation. Its downright gruesome. And just when you think those unnerving visuals are over, they arent. After the mad man is executed by hanging (we see that action too, and, of course, he doesnt die right away, but swings and struggles against his bonds as he dangles at the end of the rope until the neck finally snaps), we go back in time to see more boys mistreated by this serial killer.

By now, many are thinking Im the one who is becoming too graphic. Forgive me. But this film bothered me into the night. So, I wanted to drive home the point its just too much. From beginning to end, the film is excessive. And long 144 minutes.

With the exception of Ms. Jolie, much of the acting is over-the-top hammy. As for the story, which is supposedly based on true incidents, I have no reason to believe it didnt happen. After all, Clint Eastwood says it did. It is, however, so bizarre that its stranger than fiction. Whats more, the production begs the question, have filmmakers lost the knack for telling such horrific cases without beating up those who paid to watch it? And are audiences so used to such imagery that they need each and every movie to be a little more detailed in its gruesomeness? Evidently. As I said, no one walked out.

DVD Alternative: The Wrong Man. Superb Hitchcock thriller about a man wrongly accused of a crime and the effect it has on his family. Henry Fonda stars. Its old and in B&W, but the setup is more frightening than monsters and ghouls. This one unnerves due to the possibility of being accused of something we didnt do and how that moment can affect an entire life.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: Four or five obscenities and several minor expletives most of this objectionable language comes from the villains.

Profanity: Around ten profanities, again from the villains

Violence: Brutality towards the lead character as she is forced into a mental institution where she encounters brutalized women; we see people held against their will; a woman is subjected to shock therapy this was very difficult to watch; boys are held against their will in cages; a serial killer kills them with an axe; though we dont see the hatchet enter the boys, we do see blood splattered on the villain; we see bones of children found in a grave; the whole film is tinted by sadistic and unjust behavior to innocent people. Blood: Blood splattered on the murderer; we see blood stains on an axe.

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: In the asylum, the heroine is forced to take a sedative.

Other: None

Running Time: 141 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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