Tribeca Festival Viewpoints Section
Reviewed for Shockya.com by Abe Friedtanzer
With: Brandon Victor Dixon, Naturi Naughton, Orlando Jones, Thomas Sadoski, William Fichtner, Amy Sloan
Screening on: Critics’ link, NYC, 04/14/22
Opening: June 11e2022
There are a lot of people who don’t trust politicians, and for good reason. Far too many of those who have been elected to political office have abused their power, manipulated the process to get elected in the first place, or taken advantage of the access and resources available to them once they achieved office. Restoring trust is a difficult task, and it is rarely helped by the avalanche of false promises made repeatedly during the election campaign and which are suddenly forgotten once the elections are won. 88 imagine an even darker circumstance, where a presidential candidate is supported by shadow elements he doesn’t even know exist.
At the center of this political thriller is Femi Jackson (Brandon Victor Dixon), who works as chief financial officer for One USA, a political action committee backing Harold Roundtree (Orlando Jones) for the Democratic presidential nomination. His work becomes infinitely more interesting – and disturbing – when he sees a series of donations that suggest outside influence, and he works with an investment blogger, Ira Goldstein (Thomas Sadoski), to uncover their source, leading to a pattern. of troubling funding that suggests an organization with totally undemocratic and anti-progressive aims is pulling the strings.
88 is the kind of film that has the potential to be used by conspiracy theorists to bolster their own ideas, showing that even liberal Hollywood is paranoid and thinks someone is out to get them. Its questionable entertainment value aside, this film eschews the issue of voter fraud and instead focuses on the larger issue of election integrity, and the idea that even the most seemingly pure politician is not at sheltered from a lust for power, which will drive them to take all the money they can get, whether or not it comes from a place that contradicts their entire belief system.
One thing that 88 posits what doesn’t fit with the most widely discussed conspiracy theories is that it’s not about a wealthy liberal or a top Muslim terrorist. Instead, the enemy is white supremacy, which in the world of this film has become so entrenched in the American system that it has managed to exist unchecked since support for the Nazi regime was only an acceptable political position. It is hardly edifying to consider this possibility, especially given the increasingly visible presence of neo-Nazis in today’s American society, but it is at least positive to see that the real enemy here is the one who mostly manages to get away with it.
It’s a movie that feels like it wants to emulate classics like All the President’s Men who are rolling out a plan involving many people at high levels of government and the complicity of many mid-level agents who have simply accepted it rather than trying to resist. The latter is on full display here, and Jackson is the epitome of the pursuit of truth, determined to uncover it even if it will certainly put him in danger. The knowledge that it would be impossible to completely dismantle what has been there for decades is there, but Jackson isn’t content to just sit back and must do what he can to begin breaking down a toxic structure.
88 presents intriguing ideas in a haphazard fashion, describing Jackson’s investigation with Goldstein as he consults with his bosses to determine how to handle what he has found. Interspersed are interview segments between Roundtree and talk show host Ron Holt (William Fichtner), who urges him to answer his questions and address contradictions in what he says and does. . 88 tries to be fair and critical at the same time, creating a scenario where it’s impossible to win or be really good. That may be the way things really are, but it’s not an optimistic outlook.
Acting – B
Overall – B-