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The Believer

Starring Ryan Gosling, Summer Phoenix, Theresa Russell, Billy Zane
Written and Directed by Henry Bean
no website

IN SHORT: It's amazing that a story so packed with hate can be such a compelling sit. [Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexual content. 100 minutes]

This is a story of a man named Danny Balint (Ryan Gosling). Danny hates Jews. Hates 'em with a passion. Doesn't have a reason for this hate because, as he explains anti-Semitism to a crowd of like-minders, if there he had reason "the Jews would find a reason why there shouldn't be a reason." Danny will babble on like this for a couple of minutes in The Believer, his words clearly displaying the idiocy of his hate -- to all of us on the other side of the long lost foreskin who've been hearing this crap on and off for years and to you, too.

Danny's hate is unbounded. He and his thug pals go to Neo-Nazi summer camp. They defile a synagogue. Danny also hangs out with a proto fascist organization, that group doesn't want to play up their anti-Semite leanings. "It's a stupid thing to do in America," says frontman Curtis Moebius (Billy Zane). Zane's dame, the ramrod straight Aryan beauty bitch Lina (Theresa Russell) senses that the articulate Danny could front a brand new fund raising drive for the group. Danny is riled by the notion, for reasons that are more grounded in his racism than you could conceive of, but obeys. The perks of the job include Lina's daughter Carla (Summer Phoenix), who is more than willing to please in the sack, as long as you hurt her a little. Danny has no problem with that. Neither does Curtis, when he's in town. So much for superior moral values.

But Carla is fascinated at how well Danny "knows the enemy". She finds a Torah, the holy scroll on which are inscribed the first five books of the Bible, hidden in Danny's closet and discovers that he can read it. And, since the girl is a helluva lot more intelligent than most of the stereotype racists that dot The Believer, she figures out what the entire audience has been tipped to almost from the start.

This Jew hater is a Member of the Tribe.

What's even more difficult than the self-hatred is the fact that Danny has reached the point where even that hatred will not allow him to defile the scroll of the Law. The level of his hatred has brought him to the attention of a reporter for the New York Times (A. D. Miles) who, in the course of his own investigations, uncovers Danny's "secret".

That the producers of The Believer found a location that looks like a synagogue is not hard to believe. That they proceed with a story in which what sure looks like a Torah is manhandled was a wee bit hard for this m.o.t. to sit through. It is a complement to writer/director Henry Bean's work that his story is so strong that, coupled with Gosling's riveting performance, he's created a top notch film for the indie/ arthouse circuit.

[that being said] the ending of this flick, which we will not spill, is such a perfect piece of Jewish humor cum revenge that we almost could have started giggling vengefully in the screening room. We didn't, because everything that came before it was so hard edged hateful that we didn't get any pleasure in the irony or the punishment.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Believer, he would have paid . . .


The historical average for indie films on this site puts the good ones at about four bucks -- which means most folk who don't prefer the arthouse will be renting. As unpleasant as the story and characters in The Believer are, this is far and away the best indieflick we've sat for so far this year.

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