J.Edgar Hoover American hero, ruled the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 48 years. Famed as a square jawed gangbuster and protector of the American dream. The ugly reality of the Hoover legend was quite different.
Hoover worked with eight US presidents. Yet ultimately served only himself. He was a man who had a very public agenda of self-promotion, He was a Commie hating, red baiting, right-winger. A momma’s boy monster of sexual repression, who hated the Kennedy’s as passionately as he hated Martin Luther King Jr. whom he considered, the most dangerous man in America.
At a time when multi-national Mafia crime clans were carving up the US economy, with an agenda of big money, murder, and corruption, Hoover was busy pursuing small-time bank robbers, like John Dillinger.
Hoover reigned as the power behind the presidential throne for decades. Documenting the legend is then, a monumental task. But when it comes to such tasks, there is no better Director than Octogenarian Pale Rider Clint Eastwood. Clint takes the Hoover biopic from it’s inception in the nineteen-twenties to its inexorable conclusion a generation later, and he does so with immeasureable style and panache.
Leonardo Di Caprio plays Hoover, utilizing a star quality for the role, that mirrors the Hoover legend. Hoovers homophobic, battle-axe mother, is played to great effect, by the marvelous Judi Dench. While Armie Hammer plays Hoover ‘soulmate’ and assistant Clyde Tolson, the unrequited friendship forming a major focus for the movie.
Eastwood is ably assisted in the script department, by Oscar winning Milk writer Dustin Lance Black.
J. Edgar utilizes a flashback plot, that references Citizen Kane and Psycho, giving us two hours seventeen minutes of unadulterated darkness as the twisted complexity of an American legend unfolds.
Naturally the cinematography by Tom Stern is as dark as Hoover’s soul, shadows and subdued tones providing an atmospheric canvas as we thrill and cringe to the bald-faced meglomania and human psychosis of Americas most flawed lawman.
As a footnote, eagle eyed Crimeziners should look out as Edgar & Clyde shop for clothes during the movie. The store is named Julius Garfinkle. The given name of actor
John Garfield, one of many blacklisted from Hollywood due to Hoover’s red scare mania. Wry Eastwoodian Humor? He’s no Woody Allen, but neither is Woody Allen these days.