DVD Review: Imperium

imperiumdvdSTUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Daniel Ragussis | CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts, Devin Druid, Nestor Carbonell, Sam Trammell
RELEASE DATE: 11/1/16 | PRICE: DVD $19.98, Blu-ray $16.99
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes, cast/crew interviews
SPECS: R | 108 min. | Crime thriller | 2.40:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video  | Overall

Daniel Radcliffe continues his chance-taking post Harry Potter career with Imperium, a tension-filled crime drama-thriller that shows, along with the recent Swiss Army Man, how far the actor will go to move past his screen persona as the very popular British wizard people came to know and love.

Here he’s Nate Foster, a young, ambitious FBI agent looking for a tough assignment. He gets one in the guise of going undercover as a skinhead to infiltrate a network of white supremacist organizations linked to hate-spewing talk show host Dallas Wolf (Tracy Letts, Elvis & Nixon). With guidance from a fellow agent (Toni Collette, The Way Way Back), Turner befriends a seemingly sophisticated married man (Sam Trammell, TV’s True Blood) with a secret agenda.

imperium_1_optAlthough it may remind viewers of American History X with Edward Norton and The Believer with Ryan Gosling, Radcliffe and debuting writer/director Daniel Ragussis can solidly stand on their own two feet with this tightly-wound, smartly executed enterprise. Radcliffe goes all out in his part of an operative who finds it increasingly difficult to cover all of his tracks as he descends further and further into the eye of the racist storm. One of the film’s most fascinating elements is showing how splintered the underworld of haters are as jealousy, in-fighting and competition is revealed to be common among them. And most unsettling is Trammell’s depiction of a loving family man who listens to classical music and is a loving father and husband, but who is steadfastly entrenched in his Aryan nation beliefs.

While Imperium’s finale is on the low-key side—and probably more realistic because of that—the film is surprisingly powerful, especially in light of the current political climate. But its distributor, Lionsgate, made it part of their “Premiere” program, which meant extremely limited theatrical exposure even with a strong Rotten Tomatoes rating of 86%.

Imperium and Daniel Radcliffe deserve a lot more respect, which both should find as the film makes its way to the home market.

 

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.