HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT -- AMC Academy, Beacon Mall, Fair City Mall, K-B Cereberus, Landover Mall, Roth's Montgomery, Roth's Parkway, Roth's Silver Spring East and Roth's Tysons Corner.

"Look, I don't have nothing to do with that," says the government worker to the man who objects that he ought to be helped after waiting in line for three hours -- even if he did pick the wrong line.

This scene, in which the hero of "Hide in Plain Sight" is attempting to collect his unemployment compensation, is quite incidental to the plot. The picture tells the story of a real man who can't find his children because the Justice Department has given their stepfather a "new identity" for having turned state's evidence on his gangster associates.

But it is key, because the attempt of the film is to make this strange and true story be Kafka's Castle in America. It's effectively done. But by simplifying events so that the villain is an indifferent bureaucracy in all its manifestations, petty as well as powerful, it dulls the distinction between tragedy and exasperation.

James Caan has directed this film in which he also stars. In both his acting and his directing, over-simplification intrudes on an otherwise gripping drama.

To clarify the point, the hero is made to embody everything the American worker is supposed to be. He's hard-working, honest, respectful, caring, non-violent and a good pool player. While not seeming to notice that his ex-wife is a floozy, he instinctively picks the only woman in his entire social circle who dresses primly. Finally there gets to be something patronizing about this careful rendition of the urban American serf.

He follows due process for getting what he wants, until he's convinced that there's no good faith anywhere. We're ready to cheer when he finally takes to smashing the cars and telephones of people who thwart him.

The postscript to the movie tells us that the man on whom it is based is still pressing his suit in court. It also gives us the information that the criminals who were convicted with the stepfather's testimony are out of jail.

There is, in those statements, the suggestion of a whole world of complication and irony omitted from the picture.