The Insurrection (2020)

If the 700 Club ever decided to fund an action film, it would likely resemble The Insurrection — an ineptly filmed, interminably talky incursion of conservative trash-bin ideology into a bargain-bin Seagal narrative. 

The Insurrection has been written, directed, shot, edited and scored by Rene Perez, a filmmaker whose most prominent credit is a Death Wish knockoff called Death Kiss that stars a guy who’s a dead ringer for the late Charles Bronson. Here, Perez mimics the megalomaniac auteurism of Neil Breen without even a scintilla of self-awareness, delivering a film that’s so thematically absurd that you’d presume it has to be parodic satire if not for the painfully straight faces. There is some grossly distasteful last-second ADR referencing “a virus” to be released. And yet for all of its vile invective, The Insurrection is so inert that the only potentially worrisome violent response from any viewer is how loudly he might snore.

Telecommunications trajillionaire Joan Schafer (Wilma Elles) has tired of “pumping poison” into the populace to live the high life and “have a piece of the forbidden fruit.” So Joan decides to come clean through “atomic bomb” interviews during which she will assert her role in an international conspiracy to “dull the intellects” of everyone around the world. 

Orchestrated by liberal elites, this conspiracy has used popular entertainment to diminish misguided masculinity, disparage the sacrosanct reputation of marriage, promote acceptance of transgender people, emphasize racism as a global problem and … well, other generally productive and progressive developments. An opening photo montage rattles off the usual conservative bogeymen — Obama, the Clintons, Pelosi, AOC — but their pixelation suggests that what spooks Perez most is the specter of legal action.

Joan knows she’s unlikely to survive, so she springs a troubled military man from prison to keep her alive for as long as possible. Sergeant Major (who might have a last name, but who cares) is played by Michael Paré, once an honest-to-god movie star now being asked to walk slow toward the camera and shoot prop guns. “You’ve been bailed out by what you lower-class people call the Illuminati … or whatever you call it,” says Joan’s assistant, Dakota (Rebecca Tarabocchia), who later appears topless in the film’s sole nod to tried-and-true exploitation tactics. One guy against paramilitary forces, Sergeant Major will receive $1 million to take the job and $1 million for every attack wave he successfully beats back.

From there, The Insurrection feels like a Dinesh D’Souza propaganda fart punctuated by people shooting at each other every few minutes. Emphasis on at, for the boring gun battles are like that Naked Gun 2 ½ bit in which gunmen inches from each other continually miss. (Whenever Paré gets plunked in his plate armor by the rare connecting round, his bodily response is as though he stepped on a very small tack.)

Inside the mansion, meanwhile, Joan unloads her story to three separate interviewers — which allows Perez to direct more of a dog-whistle choir than a film. “Almost all TV and movies are left-wing propaganda,” Joan insists, before a hilarious aside about how “Lucas” was “too independent” for her group’s clutches and that his creation is now “owned by the Hollywood machine.” She invokes Rosemary’s Baby as a vehicle meant to demonize marriage and motherhood. Her cabal’s “Glowing Screen Initiative” has supplanted action figures and dolls. “Video games, alcohol and porn will make men stay stupid forever,” Joan says in a kinda-sorta-broken-clock moment. In her diminishment of the Me Too movement as a mask for Hollywood’s human trafficking, Joan adds: “Studio executives rely on fresh vagina being imported daily.” During this digression, Perez invokes the real-life Virginia Rappe, murdered by silent film star Fatty Arbuckle in 1921. It’s enough to make you regret films evolving to talkies.

That’s not just because of what you’re hearing but how you’re hearing it. It’s not the smartest idea for Perez to funnel his fabulist fantasia, for which reason is a second position, through the mouth of someone for whom English is a second language. A successful German actress, Elles filters Perez’s necrotized words through an agonizingly narcotized performance. It feels like Elles was broadsided by a 2×4 before cameras rolled — putting spaces between so many words of her voluminous monologues that even Walken and Shatner would give pause. It never looks like Elles got a second take … or a concussion assessment.

She also delivers her diatribes in an often-unintelligible Teutonic accent that makes you wonder: In a film that literally could have cast anyone in this role, did Perez intentionally pick someone whom he knew could speak the words without really internalizing how they’d play in an American cultural context? The unintended result is that Joan’s words eventually mash together into a perfunctory paste that would bore even the blowhards who might truly believe this bullshit.

Viewers of any stripe certainly won’t be distracted by any of the flat digital visuals here. The color timing renders greying temples green and reduces skin tones to two options — tanning-bed malfunction or nigh-embalmed shut-in. A nighttime visit to the Sergeant Major’s perch incorporates a CGI effect reminiscent of truck-stop T-shirts with howling wolves. The bleached-out aesthetic resembles those anti-piracy PSAs that used to preface DVDs. And from the look of things, none of the action proved so destructive that Perez couldn’t get back that deposit on all his rented drones and GoPro camera mounts. Right now, there are junior-high students filming something with more confident production values … and deeper thoughts.

Ah, yes. An insult! Perez purports to have a critic-proofing retort for insults, too, as the domain of those who “cannot make civilized arguments based on facts.” Just another triggered opinion to Perez, sure, but The Insurrection feels like something to be paired with Plandemic in the feature-and-a-short version of a lunatic-fringe Criterion Channel. In a moment when Joan is told her revelations will be “made to look like the ramblings of a Hollywood failure who’s jealous and spiteful,” you’ll think: Yeah, that seems about right.


The Insurrection is currently available for rental or purchase on Amazon Prime Video or Vimeo.



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An award-winning film critic and features reporter, Nick has professionally written or gabbed about movies for Illinois newspapers, national syndicates, Playboy, The Art Immortal, The Film Yap and Midwest radio stations. He once drummed in a Billy Joel cover band known as Silly Joel and freely presents his Letterboxd page to engage and mock if you wish: https://letterboxd.com/ragekage79/


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