It says something about “Imperium” that we spent the entire hour and 45 minute film thinking up alternate titles.
Some contenders: “Harry Potter and the Crosses of Fire”; “Harry Potter and the Half-wit Klansmen”; or “Harry Potter and The Order.”
To be fair to Daniel Radcliffe, the erstwhile ’Arry Pottah, the actor has done a fine job of moving away from that childhood role. But the bad “Harry Potter” puns were calling, just like those day-old office donuts.
Radcliffe plays Nate Foster, an FBI analyst who is tapped to go undercover and infiltrate a white supremacist circle in order to uncover a domestic terrorism plot.
Foster’s passionate handler, Detective Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette) has the feeling that a radical radio host, a trio of skinhead thugs, a bearded Aryan Brotherhood leader and a classical music-loving history buff are about to take down the Beltway.
Foster, too, believes these guys are planning “something big” so he goes deep: shaving his head, hurling racial slurs, getting a hardcore tattoo, wearing combat boots. He learns the white supremacist’s credo, goes to their parties, eats their swastika cupcakes.
He also befriends Gerry, a soft-spoken family man with a great head of hair. One look at Gerry and we thought, “Really, this guy? But he’s so handsome.”
First time director and co-writer Daniel Ragussis does an admirable job of tackling the broad topics of deep-seated racism and home-grown terrorism.
Subtlety is not a word Ragussis knows. The movie repeatedly hits the audience over the head with flashing images — burning crosses, white hoods, swastikas and the Aryan Brotherhood “A” — in between various scenes throughout the movie. Ragussis is not quite convinced that his audience knows radical white supremacy is bad.
“Imperium’s” script has a tendency to over-explain, as with the five-minute biography of Timothy McVeigh. We doubt Ragussis’s target audience is unfamiliar with the largest ever act of domestic terrorism.
The film doesn’t really get interesting until the last quarter, when Foster and Zamparo’s surefire strategy to prove that there is a “big event” goes bust.
Those loudmouth skinheads and gruff Aryan Brotherhood guys seem to be all bravado and nothing else so Foster prepares to abandon his mission. Until…
We won’t give the rest away since the final 15 minutes are the only ones worth watching. Sorry, Harry, we won’t be catching this sequel.
(FYI: For a much better movie on white supremacy, watch “The Believer,” a great 2001 drama starring pre-heartthrob Ryan Gosling.)