Clint Eastwood works very fast. He usually knows exactly what he wants, does one or maybe two takes, and then moves on, so that a film that was casting earlier this year has already wrapped filming and the studio behind it, Warner Bros., is set to release it. That’s what happened with Eastwood’s latest film, Richard Jewell, which is a fact-based drama based on what happened to security guard Richard Jewell.
For those that need a brief refresher, at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta a bomb went off and a person was killed. Richard Jewell (played in the movie by I, Tonya’s Paul Walter Hauser) was the security guard who discovered a suspicious backpack and evacuated the area, which saved lives. However, Jewell was then targeted as a suspect and his life was turned upside down even though it was ultimately shown that he had no involvement in the attack. It’s a really rich narrative about how heroes are turned into villains and the quick rush to judgment in a 24-hour-news framework.
Unfortunately, it’s a story the landed in the hands of Eastwood who treats filmmaking as a personal hobby rather than something other people have to sit through. If you think that’s me being harsh, then you should know that Warner Bros., which backs pretty much every Eastwood movie, didn’t even bother screening his last two movies—The 15:17 to Paris and The Mule—for critics in Atlanta (meaning it probably didn’t screen for anyone outside of New York and L.A. either). Eastwood is a legend who makes movies for a low cost, occasionally one stumbles into being American Sniper, so the studio keeps bankrolling him. He’s a low-risk, high-return investment, and if a movie like The 15:17 to Paris tanks, it didn’t cost that much and no one is really affected.
The downside is that good stories get wasted on a filmmaker who doesn’t really care. We’ve seen this before with Eastwood with Jersey Boys and J. Edgar. Eastwood wants to keep busy, and so maybe there’s an outside chance that Richard Jewell is good, but more likely than not it will be as forgettable as Sully and he’ll just move on to the next thing.
Richard Jewell opens December 13th and also stars Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, and Olivia Wilde.