This bludgeoning political documentary isn't content to get us thinking; it tells us what to think. Heather Rae's gushy portrait of John Trudell, an outspoken figure in the Native American rights movement of the 1970s, combines a minimum of critical distance and a maximum of gratuitous flash.
Trudell, who later reinvented himself as a spoken-word artist, has an undeniable presence, but his windy rants throw into question the judgment of the FBI agent who labeled him "extremely eloquent [and] therefore extremely dangerous." We learn that the FBI has a 17,000-page file on Trudell, evidently because he wouldn't stop speechifying.
With worshipful helicopter shots of Trudell looking monumental on a hilltop, seizure-inducing editing that mixes news footage and corny old movies for cheap irony, and Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristofferson and Val Kilmer presented as experts on subjects better left to historians, the film's style swamps its scanty substance. Trudell's eventful life, from leading the occupation of Alcatraz Island, to the tragic deaths of his family in a fire of mysterious origin, could be the basis of a compelling, objective film. "Trudell" isn't it.
* out of four stars