ATLAS SHRUGGED PART II: THE STRIKE
MOVIE: *1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
Samantha Mathis as DAGNY TAGGART
Jason Beghe as HENRY REARDEN
Esai Morales as FRANCISCO D’ANCONIA
Patrick Fabian as JAMES TAGGART
Kim Rhodes as LILLIAN REARDEN
Richard T. Jones as EDDIE WILLERS
Studio: Atlas Productions
Directed by: John Putch
BY KEVIN CARR
Films made to satisfy an ideology – be it religious or political – are almost always bad. That’s not a judgement on the ideology, necessarily. Rather, it’s a judgement about the creative process. While filmmakers must have passion to create a quality film, too much passion for the message behind the film can often cripple the artistic nature of it.
When I reviewed “Atlas Shrugged: Part I,” I pointed out how the film felt like a pushy faith-based film that was made not because it was of good quality but because it stood behind a message the filmmakers believed in. Such films of this ilk include “The Omega Code” and “Fireproof.” They’re often amateurish attempts at films that offer no real conflict and present characters are too extreme or pathetic fluff.
The passion of the people surrounding the entire “Atlas Shrugged” films is its albatross around its neck. There are ironic footnotes in cinema history because they champion the free market yet fail miserably in it. In short, no one seems to want either “Atlas Shrugged: Part I” or “Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike” aside from the people who make them or the narrow slice of Tea Party political evangelists who demand the movies be made.
This is not a dig at Ayn Rand or her message, or at her groundbreaking book “Atlas Shrugged” which was one of the best-selling novels of its time. In fact, I haven’t read Rand’s book, so I cannot speak on that subject.
What I can speak on is the relevance of the story – or at least how it came out of the sausage factory that is independent filmmaking. While the book may be thoughtful and well written, the script of “Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike” is a mess. There’s very little focus and terrible dialogue. The character are either fuzzy and unclear or typical strawmen for political assault.
The story takes off directly after the events of “Atlas Shrugged: Part I.” Dagny Taggart (recast with Samantha Mathis now that Taylor Schilling is making Nicholas Sparks movies in real theaters) is struggling to keep her railroad afloat in the midst of a global recession and government regulation. While she’s trying to get a miracle energy source working, Henry Rearden (Jason Beghe) is fighting against the government who wants to confiscate his patent for his miracle metal to give to other businesses. Meanwhile, the mysterious John Galt continues to lure the captains of industry from the world and go on strike against a greedy workforce.
Aside from having weak acting, terrible dialogue, cheesy visual effects that don’t even belong on television and almost no sense of direction, “Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike” wounds itself with its own message. There is supposedly supposed to be in the midst of a worldwide recession, yet it is rarely seen. Aside from some brief shots on surprisingly well-dressed homeless people and multiple montages of protesters, we see no poverty or struggle.
The characters in this film continue to ride in limousines, eat at swanky restaurants, work in slick high-rise buildings and dress to the nines. Yet, they complain about the greediness of the workers and the government. Pot shots are taken throughout at the American workforce and labor unions without any real demonstration of why these are seen as bad things in this film.
Of course, the real enemy in the movie is the government, which is painted as an oppressive, all-powerful entity. However, it’s poorly explained as to why the government is doing what it’s doing. At one point, the government sets up a plan to freeze workforces, salaries and even personal expenditures, which is a practical impossibility that could never be enforced. Nor would it even be attempted.
I can see why these ideas were popular when the book was written, being in the midst of the Red Scare, but I doubt even the most extreme Communist government would attempt such policy for no other reason than it being a logistical nightmare.
So with an unseen enemy with a convoluted purpose, “Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike” fails to invoke any sort of drama or conflict. I never quite grasped what Dagny Taggart was doing throughout the film, or how the iconic yet unexplained phrase “Who is John Galt?” made any sense in the grand scheme of things.
Maybe I should just read the book, because with two failures under the belt, I’ll be shocked if “Atlas Shrugged III” ever gets put into production.
The Blu-ray comes with some special features, but fewer than we saw in the previous release. There’s deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette that simply shows the development of a pointless action sequence in the film. Finally, for fans of Sean Hannity, his cameo is presented in uncut form as a bonus feature.