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Overall Rating
3.27

Awesome: 27.08%
Worth A Look: 20.83%
Just Average: 4.17%
Pretty Crappy47.92%
Sucks: 0%

5 reviews, 18 user ratings


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Last King of Scotland, The
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by Erik Childress

"Playing God With Idi Amin"
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: If the prologue to The Naked Gun taught us anything, its that Idi Amin belonged in a room with some of the most ruthless leaders to populate the world landscape. By the end of his reign, its been estimated that some quarter of a million of his Ugandan citizens had been tortured or killed after a coup that had his people welcoming him as a savior. Films tend to try and accentuate the positives amidst the tragedies. Schindlerís List and Hotel Rwanda had witnesses to the ongoing atrocities and eventually shed a ray of hope to the helpless. The Last King of Scotland breaks old ground in the tactic of a white man as our guide through the stories of a Hollywood minority, but does so with such a stupid and unnecessary protagonist that Amin unwittingly becomes a secondary character that is two parts charming and barely one part the butcher he actually was.

White Devil of the month is Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), a spoiled Scotsman fresh from med school who decides to escape from his familyís wealth and practice at the first spot he chooses on the globe. After rejecting Canada, his second spin brings him to Uganda. The cocky Garrigan, nevertheless, is a good doctor and a useful one for the small villages helped by a British physician and his wife (Gillian Anderson) who the Braveheart has no qualms about moving on. Together they witness the rally of the overthrow of the countryís Communist leader and have their first encounter with the boisterous people-person responsible.

Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker) becomes impressed with Garrigan, not just as a healer bandaging up his hand on a chance meeting but his decisive action in putting an animal out of its misery when nobody else would. It doesnít take Nicholas long to drop his noble pursuit of medicine and take Amin up on his offer to be his personal physician and adviser, complete with a fancy domain and wheels. And why not? The worst that can be said about this coup leader is his increasing paranoia that everyone is out to get him and the bad dreams suggesting when heís going to die. Plus, he farts big just like the rest of us. Heís an alright dude.

Seducing people with his charm was one of Aminís strengths, but the approach of the material use this factor not just as an introduction but for the bulk of the running time. For 80 minutes, other than the punishment for gunmen trying to spray him down in his car, there is virtually no trace of Dada the Butcher, just Dada the sweating, smiling wide-eyed farter. Try as they may to suggest Aminís darker side through warnings from an intelligence officer (Simon McBurney), itís like watching the similar caution from The Devilís Advocate where Keanu Reeves ignores the suggestions of his bossí true disposition. Punctuated by Garriganís incredibly moronic behavior, such as making time with whatís behind Aminís Wife Door #3 (Kerry Washington), the leaderís behavior as an enraged husband almost appear justified even while choosing to resolve their differences during the PLO hijacking that historians view as the beginning of his downfall.

Writers Jeremy Brock (Mrs. Brown) and Peter Morgan (the forthcoming excellence of The Queen) much like Garrigan are just following orders to adapt Giles Fodenís novel which takes the same approach; albeit envisioning Garrigan as an indecisive coward instead of the wisdom-provider frequently seen in Aminís presence. An autobiographical account of the physician who had a ringside seat to Aminís rise-and-fall (even in fictional form) isnít an awful idea, even within the history of films like Cry Freedom and Glory where the actors who are the real story find themselves relegated to awards in the supporting categories. But there must be more than just a proximity connection between the antagonists. Garriganís story isnít interesting because thereís absolutely nothing personal about it. Heís barely a pawn in a Kingís story; a court jester who isnít aware heís the joke. Surely heís seen some horrific sights in his treatments of the less fortunate and yet thereís no preponderence for his first contact with Aminís mutiliation tactics. Thereís none for us either and the jaded approach that director Kevin MacDonald takes to the grotesquery when it finally arrives at the end of the second act does nothing to identify us with the vastness of Aminís brutality. Itís just a signal that the not-so-good doctor get the hell out of Dodge.

Forest Whitakerís performance will deservedly be seeping with praise from both fans and detractors of the film. I havenít decided if its tribute-worthy or asinine for Whitaker to make Amin such a merry man of the people. Itís a testament for him to ever make us smile at his antics as we push back the butcher tendencies weíve pre-judged from the history books, but the whole approach doesnít implicate us in falling for him the way the immature doctor does. This isnít a history lesson, itís Playing God co-starring Idi Amin with Scully instead of Mulder. Remember the film with David Duchovny? Probably not. But it was about a disgraced doctor who helps a ruthless criminal, becomes his doctor, sleeps with his girl (Angelina Jolie) and gets the crap beat out of him for it. Maybe for an encore, we can get a film with Josh Hartnett playing Theodore Morell, Hitlerís personal physician. It can be wacky as Morell senses something missing during a hernia inspection, squints his way into the bed of Eva Braun who introduced him to Der Fuhrer and takes a single punch to close his eyes permanently before committing suicide. They can call it The Last Dahliance of Germany.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15083&reviewer=198
originally posted: 09/28/06 18:10:02
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2006 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell tense true story well acted 4 stars
2/23/10 Jeff Wilder Whittaker delivers a commanding performance. 4 stars
5/15/09 R.W. Welch Hoked up history, but acting is first class. C+ 3 stars
3/28/09 Ry I film that presents no good or hope. 2 stars
11/23/08 Shaun Wallner Very Boring! 2 stars
8/17/08 Vincent Great - not a dull moment 5 stars
8/05/08 Braniff Whitaker as Amin is fantastic! Don't miss the movie!! 5 stars
7/12/08 John Millheim wow, this makes you think how lucky we are to be american 5 stars
1/14/08 pablo eneas great cast, but very predictable; and the link with a true story it's basically a lie 2 stars
11/25/07 C.O.L. A brilliant piece of acting encapsulated in an ok film 4 stars
7/15/07 Hello Stranger great acting althou the plot doesn't really move forward till the last quarter of the movie 4 stars
6/25/07 fools♫gold If I give this 5 stars, then I've underrated "The Ninth Gate". 95% 5 stars
4/20/07 action movie fan whitaker is outstanding but nothing else is 2 stars
2/10/07 Karl The young doctor was so annoying, i couldnt concentrate enough on the plot. 2 stars
1/18/07 MP Bartley Whitaker is fierce but it's light on context and McAvoy is so annoying you want him to die. 3 stars
12/07/06 Ancaster Film Fest Best of TIFF for me. Whitaker great! If you liked McAvoy rent Rory O'Shea was Here. 5 stars
12/06/06 Ole Man Bourbon Forrest Whitaker's best performance, and he's had some great ones. Entertaining and freaky. 5 stars
10/11/06 AMINA EXCELLENT MOVIE FORREST WHITTAKER WAS GREAT AND SO WAS JAMES MCAVOY. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  27-Sep-2006 (R)
  DVD: 17-Apr-2007

UK
  18-Oct-2006

Australia
  01-Feb-2007



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