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The Insider (1999)

Out of all the Russell Crowe films I've viewed in the past, The Insider was the one I was least looking forward to revisiting.  I first saw the film around the heyday of Gladiator when Russell's career began its rise, and while Russell puts forth a worthy Oscar Nominated performance the film as a whole was simply boring.  What's the old adage?  Bore me once shame on you, bore me twice shame on me.

The Insider is based on the true story of a 60 Minutes producer (played by Al Pacino) who receives a package of information that reveals some disturbing information regarding the known practices of Big Tobacco purposely adding ingredients into their product to make it more addictive and harmful.  Pacino as Lowell Bergman searches around and finds a former research biologist for Brown & Williamson named Jeff Wigand (Russell Crowe) whose unwilling to discuss what he knows or help Bergman decipher the package of evidence he received.  But Bergman's persistence and Wigand's conscience soon get the best of him and he agrees to a television interview to expose the crimes of Big Tobacco.  But fighting a group who obviously has no regard for the health of it's customers, only the money in their wallets, proves to take a toll on Wigand's life since he's essentially declared war.

First thing worth noting is The Insider is filmed in sort of a documentary style, something that rarely appeals to me.  With a script that's highly conversational and extremely long it didn't add up to form a great combination, but made it more difficult to stay awake.  For me even the subject matter isn't entirely interesting.  Big surprise that Big Tobacco is made up of a bunch of greedy bastards who will do whatever it takes to make a buck!  Is it really that shocking that a bunch of companies who sell "death in a stick" would not go to lengths to make it more addictive? 

Throw onto the fire that I can't stomach Al Pacino and nothing seems to be working for me here.  While Pacino's dry, one sided acting style may fly in an Italian mafia film, it doesn't work for me in a film that's making it hard enough for me stay awake as it is.  I find it rather ironic that a typically one dimensional actor like Pacino would be acting opposite one of the few actors who gives every character he plays it's own individual life.  To me the two performances almost cancel each other out, Russell makes it interesting, Pacino puts me to sleep.  Had Pacino been replaced with someone who could have turned the character into something more than another typical Al Pacino performance I might have actually enjoyed this one a little more. 

Overall, is The Insider is a total waste of time?  No. The film garnered seven Academy Award nominations, which really isn't a surprise this is the kind of stuff they like (and the kind of stuff I usually don't), although it is ironic that a lot of Hollywood smokes and this film is essentially an exposure of sorts on the industry, again not like anyone didn't already know smoking was harmful.  So did the film really have any positive effect?

For me this one gets marks solely based on Russell's performance as the whistle blower on one of the biggest American organizations.  Still it's not worth watching for that sole reason, but obviously the film's style and content appeals to the more mainstream film enthusiasts and critics, which I've never claimed or wanted to be.  In the end, I hate to wave the "boring flag" but I hope I've at least made a clear enough case as to why I feel that way, and how almost three hours was simply too much to bear for a second time around.



  1. WOW, 4 out of 10?? Sorry to disagree but I feel the exact opposite about this one. Surely Crowe's performance is the best thing here, but I find the movie quite suspenseful (despite its rather tedious pace and lack of gunfights/car chases) and I was really moved by the poignant story. I'm not a huge Pacino fan but I thought this was one of the more memorable (and likable) performance I've seen out of him and he had a great rapport with Crowe. I like this movie so much I actually recommend this to my friends a lot as Crowe's best performance (yes, even better than Maximus though that one is definitely far more entertaining).

  2. @Flixchatter - Don't get me wrong, I enjoy plenty of films that have absolutely no action, that wasn't my problem. My issues were first off I'm not a fan of the documentary style of the film, the story was incredibly slow paced (making it too long, almost 3 hrs for this type of film is really pushing it, for any film), and the subject simply wasn't interesting to me which may have just been the overall result of my first two issues.

    I get the love for it, but personally I've never loved these types of films. And I'd go with A Beautiful Mind or Cinderella Man as Crowe's top performances, but I also liked those films a whole heck of a lot more.

  3. It's been forever since I saw this. All I remember was great performances, overly dramatized plot that's not all that exciting. Though, unlike you, I do enjoy the Pacino :)

  4. @Univarn - yea I'd rather watch the De Niro or even Andy Garcia.


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