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By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 14, 1992


Richard Bugajski
Graham Greene;
Floyd Red Crow Westerman;
Raul Trujillo;
Michael Hogan
Under 17 restricted

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One thing's for sure about "Clear Cut" -- it certainly doesn't pull any punches. Directed by Polish emigre Richard Bugajski, the movie focuses on a white lawyer's radicalization at the hands of an Indian militant who kidnaps the head of a paper mill trying to destroy Native American lands.

The lawyer, Peter (Rob Lea), who has just lost the Indians' legal appeal to stop the logging, is drawn into this nightmare when a mysterious renegade named Arthur (Graham Greene), a militant with a two-foot blade who represents the mythic anger of the red man as much as he does any real, living figure, appears out of nowhere to stop the Canadian tribe's white adversaries by any means necessary -- specifically by kidnapping the mill's manager (Michael Hogan) and dragging him and the lawyer into the woods.

By implication, Arthur is merely acting on the lawyer's own unexpressed rage over the company's greed; during a session in the sweat lodge, Peter has a vision of the manager's mutilation, a vision that Arthur merely makes a reality when he pares the skin off the kidnappped executive's leg.

Though it articulates them crudely, "Clear Cut" does make its points, namely that in a time of war, as some Indians such as Arthur have come to see it, any retaliatory act is condoned, no matter how violent or barbaric, because it still doesn't equal the sins that provoked it. In its political stance, the movie, based on M.T. Kelly's novel, is completely uncompromising, though it gives each side its due. The performance by Greene is lethally sarcastic. He's scariest when he's funny. Despite its surface blandness, and though it wobbles precariously on the brink of oversimplification, it's as radical in its message as any picture you're likely to see.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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