Written by Julia A. Seymour
Occupy Wall Street and the class warfare diatribes of the 99 percent are making fewer national headlines, but their ideas are crowding movie theaters this month. Three May 2013 releases all call to mind the Zuccotti Park crowd’s grievances against capitalism, two in very violent and extreme ways.
Socialist cries for a “more equal economy” or college education as a “human right” were just a couple of the complaints of OWS. Calling for “revolution,” they also raged against “illegal foreclosures,” bailouts and bonuses, a “poisoned” food supply, outsourcing and more. All while the networks and national newspapers lauded them as the “protest of this current era.” Many wealthy celebrities also embraced the movement, touring Zuccotti Park and expressing support. According to the OWS website, on June 1, 2013, they planned to reoccupy Zuccotti Park and "take a militant stand against the NYPD to assert our right to exist in public spaces (nonviolently of course).
Given celebrities' enthusiasm for the occupy movement, it comes as no surprise that the anti-business sentiments of the OWS crowd are now on the big screen. The May 10 release, “Assault on Wall Street” was a murderous “revenge fantasy” from Uwe Boll and Phase 4 Films. “The East” is a movie about a spy who infiltrates a band of eco-anarchists who target corporations in retaliation for their “crimes.” It is scheduled for limited release May 31, going national June 7. Co-writer and star Brit Marling admitted in a TV interview that her film is related to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The most mainstream of the three, “Now You See Me,” is a cat and mouse game between four bank-robbing illusionists, “the Four Horsemen,” and the FBI who are trying to put them behind bars. Each target is a business: first a bank where they steal 3.2 million Euros, then an insurance magnate who is robbed of $140 million, then a private security firm for untold millions. The reasons for those targets are not revealed until the end of the film. It was released nationwide on May 31.
The “Now You See Me” trailer shows that this isn’t your ordinary heist film. Isla Fisher, the actress who plays one of the illusionists, tells an audience: “Everyone in this room was a victim of hard times.” Another horseman, played by openly liberal Woody Harrelson, then says “Some of you lost your homes, your car.” So, Fisher says “We’re gonna return some of that money back to you,” as money begins raining from the ceiling and the crowd roars with applause.
Harrelson, who has often bashed conservatives, is just one of several liberals who appear in the film. He is also a self-described anarchist. In an interview with Details magazine, Harrelson said, "I don't believe in politics. I'm an anarchist, I guess you could say. I think people could be just fine looking after themselves."
The movie also stars Mark Ruffalo, a big supporter of Occupy Wall Street. CBSNews.com reported that he was using his Twitter to post about rallies and voice his support for OWS. The Hollywood Reporter quoted his Twitter, “Fighting for liberty, justice and equality are about as American as you can get. Are you really against that?” In “Now You See Me” he plays an FBI agent set out to stop the four horsemen.
The film also stars Obama supporter Morgan Freeman. According to OpenSecrets.org, Freeman gave $1 million to the SuperPac Priorities USA Action (an Obama PAC). Ruffalo gave four small donations to the Obama campaign in 2012.
Another much darker movie, “The East” is set to hit theaters the same day. According to CNN Money, the film (which debuted at Sundance) is about “an anarchist collective” that “attacks major corporate CEOs and forces them to consume the harmful products they manufacture” and the operative (Marling) sent to infiltrate the group and discover their identities. In real life, Marling has spent time in anarchist collectives and living “off grid.”
In one of the trailers, a member of The East says “an eye for an eye. Can’t be more. Can’t be less.” A different trailer began with a frightening message: “We are The East ... We want all those who are guilty to experience the terror of their crimes.” Of course, because this is Hollywood the guilty parties are rich, corporate types that the eco-terrorist group claims have poisoned people.
In an interview with HuffPost Live on May 21, director and co-writer Zal Batmanglij claimed his movie was not a call to commit eco-terrorism. “It’s a movie about ideas. It’s about the idea of what they do to these people,” he stated.
But later in that interview, Marling chimed in that “The East” is controversial because it “crosses lines” and that’s what could offend people. “I think there is an element of wish fulfillment for a lot of people who watch this,” she said.
Marling directly connected her film to the Occupy Wall Street movement in an interview with New York City’s Fox 5, the host said, “I always thought eco-terrorists were bad guys. You kind of, you’re kind of easy on them a little bit.”
Marling’s reply was that “We wanted to make a movie about eco-anarchy and green anarchy and, which was the movement that people didn’t know very much about until Occupy Wall Street blew up and that sort of was the first time mainstream media was giving coverage to these sort of activist groups.” She also told the interviewers during a year of traveling she spent some time living in anarchist collectives.
Variety reported on May 29, 2013, that the stars of “The East” were talking about OWS a day earlier. Ellen Page said of OWS, “I think the movement is reflective of the frustration and anger that’s in our film ...” She also said that a movement “doesn’t always perfectly bloom and create change. ... Obviously, the police intervened and said it’s OK to set up a tent on the sidewalk if you want to get an iPhone 4 the next morning, but apparently you can’t when you speak for social justice.”
Of course, OWS wasn’t just speaking. In Oakland, Calif., there were acts of vandalism, violence, burning and shutting down the nation’s fifth busiest port. There were chants of “F--- the police!” as well as confrontation, intimidation and harassment of police officers. By Nov. 30, 2011, there had been more than 5,000 arrests. The final arrest total was closer to 8,000.
A third movie, released on May 10, “Assault on Wall Street” also echoed the chants of OWS rallies. Portraying bankers as greedy and corrupt, a man named Jim went on the offensive targeting Wall Street with an arsenal of weapons. In the trailer, he is shown losing everything and then setting out to take his revenge. Using sniper rifles, grenades and more he kills and destroys.
But Jim was the protagonist of this movie from Phase 4 Films. As the movie trailer said: “Wall Street. Where Greed is Good. And they make the rules. Fight the Greed. Fight for Justice.” The movie’s poster showed Jim (actor Dominic Purcell) in a business suit holding a pistol in his right hand and rifle in his left. There are bullet holes in NYPD cars and an explosion to his left. Above him the American flag is in tatters.
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Editor for the Media Research Center's Business and Media Institute. She has analyzed media coverage on a wide-range of economic and business issues, has done hundreds of talk radio interviews and has appeared on Fox News Channel, the Fox Business Network and the Christian Broadcast Network.