As any revolutionary knows, there’s a big leap between theory and practice, and that leap proves too much for tyro helmer Stephen Marshall’s “This Revolution.” Pic places characters inside actual events during the 2004 Republican convention in New York; it’s an intriguing idea that has cinephilic roots in Haskell Wexler’s landmark docudrama “Medium Cool,” shot during the 1968 Chicago Democratic confab. The street action is vivid, but the dramatics are distinctly not, lending the film an unintendedsense of fakery. Mini-distribs may take interest, but outside of fests, best action will be in vid.
An Ace network TV reporter played by Nathan Crooker and named Jake Cassavetes (a rather strained reference) is assigned to capture the street protests leading up to and during the GOP’s Gotham gathering.
The walls of Jake’s pad are decorated with posters for “Medium Cool,” “The Year of Living Dangerously” and Christian Frei’s superb docu on battle-hardened lenser James Nachtwey, “War Photographer.” In true Nachtwey tradition, Jake’s addicted to getting as close to the rough stuff as possible.
Jake’s on-and-off g.f. Chloe (Amy Redford) is a producer for the network and keeps prodding him to get along with the top brass — and to get the most violent footage possible. Relationships are drawn up by writer Marshall in the most basic and obvious manner, inspired in part by Paddy Chayefsky’s TV-critical “Network,” but falling miles short of Chayefsky’s colorful and highly informed character studies and dialogue.
An amusing subplot involving Jake following a boy (Brendan Sexton III) home ties into the major storyline, as the boy’s mom (Rosario Dawson) turns out to be an Iraq war widow with a secret life that sends Jake — formerly on assignment in Iraq — reeling in a chaotic third act. After becoming persona non grata at the network, Jake’s revenge is better suited to an overheated high-tech thriller, sending what was a kind of medium, coolish docudrama into the uneasy realm of fantasy.
Crooker possesses the right sort of agile, pent-up tension for a battle-worn reporter, and suggests an interesting combination of seasoned pro able to distance himself from the events he’s covering as well as idealist drawn to a cadre of street anarchists. In one of her least glamorous perfs, Dawson holds some interesting surprises in store.
Pic would have been better off not dropping in so many film references, from Cassavetes to Wexler, by which it suffers in comparison. Production is aptly street-ready and rough, with some clever vid effects adding to a sense that Big Brother is watching us all.