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Richard Jewell


Stars: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Nina Arianda, Mike Pniewski

Director: Clint Eastwood

Another rock-solid movie (the 38th) from the veteran Eastwood, now 89, this time an exposure of an appalling near-miscarriage of justice, involving the title character (played by Hauser, a dead ringer for the real thing), a tubby, bumptious security guard, disliked by most, but an unexpected hero when he discovers an abandoned backpack at an Olympic park music festival, part of the 1996 Games celebrations in Atlanta.

Alerting higher law authorities, Jewell helps clear people away from the scene, once it's been established that the rucksack contains a powerful bomb.

Helping to save the lives of hundreds (there were only two fatalities when the bomb eventually exploded), Jewell finds himself showered with praise, even on TV; but a vindictive former employer alerts FBI agents led by hot-headed Tom Shaw (Hamm) that Jewell's a suspicious character who might have had something to do with the boinmbing.

It seems unbelievable that Shaw would pass on info - 'We're looking at the security guard' - to pushy reporter Kathy Scruggs (Wilde) on the promise of sex, but it must have happened; and soon Jewell, 33, who lives with an initially proud but now distraught mother (Bates), finds himself splashed across the front pages of the nation as the atrocity's number one suspect.

Fortuitously refusing to sign anything under grilling by Hamm and his fellow FBI men, Jewell calls an old acquaintance, lawyer Watson Bryant (Rockwell) - 'You're the only one who ever treated me like a human being' - who rushes to the scene, and quickly becomes convinced of his client's innocence, despite past misdemeanours and Jewell's formidable collection of guns.

Timewise, Bryant is sure Jewell cannot have made a warning call and planted the bomb as well, but, even after the suspect passes a lie detector test, Shaw is determined to railroad his man into the electric chair.

The unknown Hauser, handed the role of a lifetime, does his director proud, while Rockwell's performance never misses a beat. Bates is also right on the mark, and Arianda, so good as Mrs Laurel in Stan and Ollie, is good again here, as Rockwell's aide-de-camp.

The drama does lose momentum a bit towards the end, but otherwise it's passionate and fearless - everything you expect from an Eastwood movie.

David Quinlan

USA 2019. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
131 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 25 Jan 2020