Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Show Me a Hero (2015)

Director:Paul Haggis
Writers: David Simon, William F. Zorzi
Cast:      Oscar Issac, Carla Quevedo, Catherine Keener

Mayor Nick Wasicsko (Oscar Issac) took office in 1987 during Yonker's worst crisis. When Federal courts ordered public housing be built in the white, middle class side of town, it divided the city in a bitter battle fueled by fear, racism, murder and politics. It is a HBO miniseries comprising of six episodes of about one hour each and is directed in its entirety by Paul Haggis. It was written by David Simon (The Wire) along with journalist William F. Zorzi and is an adaptation of the book by Lisa Belkin.

The title of the series come from the phrase: 'Show me a Hero and I'll write you a tragedy' by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is not to say that the character played by Oscar Issac is a heroic one since the actual heroes in the doing good sense are the judge (Bob Balaban) and his consultant, Oscar Newman, for the housing project. The story is told largely through the mayor  character as well as through would be residents of the housing project and their would be neighbors. The mayor character played by Oscar Issac is very much similar to Tony Carcetti from The Wire in terms of their character arc when it comes to growing desperation. Wasicsko, from the right off, is pursuing his own interests but happens to fall on the right side of the issue due to outside compulsions. He gradually sells himself out like Carcetti as he tries to prop up his flailing political career while Carcetti was doing political climbing in 'The Wire' over the course of its latter three seasons. Carcetti is my favorite character from 'The Wire' and so getting something similar from this series as well worked very well for me. Oscar Issac has been in some great projects lately and this one can be added to the list. 

Even though it is story from the late 80s, it does have great relevance for USA of today as questions regarding racism is again at the forefront. It can also be viewed in the context of so called 'Multiculturalism' Vs Integration debate and I always favor the latter. Be it when it comes to countries with immigrants or be it Liverpool FC when it comes to integrating foreign players. Multiculturalism is an easy way out taken by politicians and integration, while being a complex task to implement, works better in the long run. 'Show Me a Hero' is done with a 'Take no prisoners' approach with the makers fully confident on the back of critical success of 'The Wire'. So you don't even get cinematic/colorful characters like 'Omar', and overall, it is done in an even more realistic manner compared to 'The Wire', if that is indeed possible. I haven't seen any other works of David Simon (Treme. Corner) and so I can only compare it to Wire. Catherine Keener bravely takes up the role of an old lady from the neighborhood who is against the housing project initially. Paul Haggis jumped at the chance of working with David Simon and told his agent to agree even without asking for the script. He offered to direct all six episodes himself after reading the script and that is a practice that I really like when it comes to TV (True Detective Season 1).    

To sum up, it is another social studies class from David Simon with a layer of drama added to it. If you've seen 'The Wire', I'm sure you won't need any recommendation to watch it and if you haven't seen it, let this series be your 6-hour gateway drug towards watching Wire. I ended up binge-watching the series over two days as my broadband connection reached FUP limit pretty early last month. As for this month, I exhausted the initial limit before top-up on the first day of the month itself, thanks to David Simon and HBO. Even though it could be described as tragic from the point of view of Oscar Issac character, it is really a feel good story.

Rating: 5/5