Richard Jewell (2019)


Our Weekly Entertainment Dispatch

The FBI Picks on an Easy Target

Richard Jewell (2019)

On July 27, 1996, Americans had their eyes on Atlanta as the Summer Olympics were in full swing.  Shortly after midnight, a bomb went off at a concert within the Centennial Olympic Park.  One man was killed by the blast, another died of a heart attack, and 111 people were injured.

It could have been much worse.  A 911 call was made from the park stating that a bomb would detonate in 30 minutes.  A security guard named Richard Jewell found the suspicious package that contained the bomb.  He and others began an evacuation, but the bomb detonated as the evacuation was in progress. 

Jewell was initially hailed as a hero, but that quickly changed.  The FBI treated him as a suspect.  The prime suspect.  Life for Richard Jewell went sideways as the story hit the media. 

Clint Eastwood took this story and turned it into a terrific and timely film.  Richard Jewell (2019) is a well acted, well directed, and well written story of FBI ineptitude and misconduct. 

Paul Walter Hauser plays Richard Jewell.  While not a household name, he is excellent as the awkward, overweight, and simple security guard turned national security threat.  He has several roles under his belt both before and after this film (I, Tonya, Black Bird).  They are worth a look.  Not exactly the Hollywood leading man look, but he is a great actor. 

Sam Rockwell is Watson Bryant, Jewell’s attorney and a compendium of several real attorneys.  Jon Hamm plays FBI Agent Tom Shaw, who also represents the dozens of agents assigned to the case.  Kathy Bates portrays Richard Jewell’s mother, Bobi Jewell, and Olivia Wilde is cast as the personage of the media in Kathy Scruggs.

Eastwood uses his cast perfectly to cut the story down to its essence. Dozens of lawyers, reporters, and FBI agents were involved in the slander of Richard Jewell.  Eastwood uses his actors to make the story comprehensible.  He spins a sad tale of deceit and torture at the hands of the FBI that hurtles the uncomprehending Jewell towards disaster.

Richard Jewell is undoubtedly a hit piece on the FBI.  Quite frankly, they had it coming.  Poor investigative work, duplicitous agents, and willful disregard of facts came close to wrongfully arresting a man whose actions were heroic.  Eastwood takes a pretty good swipe at the media, portraying them as heartless vultures willing to do anything for a headline.  The truth is obviously not important to the media in Eastwood’s telling. 


The movie came at a bad time for the Bureau.  It hit theaters shortly after the nothingburger Meuller Report was issued.  Comey had already been fired for his election interference shenanigans. Peter Strzok and Lisa Page’s text messages were public knowledge.  Andrew McCabe’s lies under oath had gotten him fired.  FISA applications had been lied on.  The ball had been dropped by the Bureau on the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas shooting.  The FBI was on quite a streak of concerning behavior.   Unfortunately, it’s nothing new for our leading law enforcement agency. (check out our review of Enemies: A History of the FBI here)

The film is a bit depressing.  Jewell was not exactly winning in life before the FBI set their sights on him. But it is a reminder of the power of the government and the press.  If you are in law enforcement the film gives a good lesson.  During an investigation, you must always take the time to access all the data.  A working theory is often a good thing, but ensure your theory fits the evidence and don’t just pick the evidence that fits your theory.

Richard Jewell runs a little over two hours.  It will run you through a range of emotions and is worth putting the phone down and experiencing with focus.  You can catch it on the usual streaming services for the $4 hit.  Enjoy the movie and Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads out there.

Enjoy the movie and Stay Safe!



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