Revenge Fantasy in “Assault on Wall Street”
A new film is picking up where Charles Ferguson’s “Inside Job” left off. However, German director Uwe Boll’s indie is not a thoughtful documentary aimed at intellectuals. As its name implies, “Assault on Wall Street” is a low-budget action movie -- but one with a twist, as it puts an all-too-human face on high finance’s victims, dramatizing the low-life banksters’ crimes against the working class.
This B-picture’s lead characters are hit by capitalism’s double whammy: New Yorkers Rosie (Erin Karpluk) and Jim (Aussie actor Dominic Purcell, who looks like a cross between Steven Seagal and the Rock) are a salt of the earth couple who play by all the rules as they pursue the American dream. A veteran, hard-working Jim is an armored car security guard, but Rosie is jobless due to illness that requires expensive medical treatment. The cost of eliminating her tumors exceeds the couple’s health insurance coverage.
Just when they need their savings most, they are told by Jim’s broker that due to the 2008 Wall Street crash his investments -- which the broker had advised Jim to put his money into -- have been wiped out. The mortgage meltdown leads to foreclosure on their home and the couple’s credit cards get maxed out. A slippery, slimy pricey attorney portrayed by Julia Roberts’ older brother, Eric Roberts, is all too happy to take a steep retainer from Jim, but fails to dam the financial flood that is drowning the couple (although he keeps their $10,000 anyway). As Jim’s armored car company can’t employ a high--risk worker with money woes, he is let go.
Realizing that playing by the book has gotten him nowhere, “Assault on Wall Street” becomes a proletarian revenge fantasy, just as Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” is a gun-slinging wish fulfillment for ex-slaves (and their descendants).
His life savings down the drain, Jim goes rogue. Falling back on his military training, he wages guerrilla warfare against Wall Street. His campaign of sniper attacks and bombings culminates when Jim confronts “master of the universe” Jeremy Stancroft (John Heard of “Home Alone,” “The Sopranos”), the über -capitalist who opens “Assault” by ordering his employees to perform underhanded transactions in order to save their company at the expense of the investors.
Jim has been listening to lefty media pundits throughout the film who mention Occupy Wall Street and who rage against capitalists guilty of “criminal acts.”
As Jim takes Stancroft hostage in his Wall Street suite, he asks the businessman at gunpoint: “What’s the difference between a gangster and a bankster? You cooked the books for your bonuses. Why should I let you live? You’re a salesman -- sell me.” Snarling, Stancroft launches into a justification of “competition in a capitalist economy,” wherein “white trash and ghetto kids” fight “endless wars” for the benefit of the power elite. Stancroft’s diatribe about pillage, plunder, profit, and privilege seems ripped right out of the pages of what is reportedly Boll’s favorite book, socialist muckraker Gustavus Myers’ “History of the Great American Fortunes.”
Interestingly, offscreen, John Heard -- who similarly played the racist sheriff in Denzel Washington’s 2007 “The Great Debaters” -- is actually one of Hollywood’s most progressive activist actors.
“Assault on Wall Street” opened in Los Angeles May 10 and is now available on VOD and will be released July 30 on DVD and Blu-Ray.
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