Hammerle on ... 'Spring Breakers,' 'The Gatekeepers'

Robert Hammerle
April 10, 2013
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bob hammerle movie reviewsSpring Breakers

“Spring Breakers” is a colossally idiotic film looking for love in all the wrong places. College girls are treated as a group of sex-starved idiots with a propensity for armed robbery if short on cash.

I took my 22-year-old Saudi foreign exchange student, Thamer, along to cover my dwindling reputation, and he found the scenes involving spring break activities in Florida to be largely accurate. It’s not hard to grasp how college-age students are attracted to an environment overpowered by thousands of drunken colleagues.

But please don’t assume that “Spring Breakers” is a comic take of college kids on the make. To the contrary, this is a dire film about dull, twisted college women who are looking for excitement regardless of the consequences. In the process, they link up with a wretched underworld drug dealer who provides them with a free ticket to his own version of hell.
The movie is like getting stabbed with a dull knife. Incredibly, many scenes and accompanying dialogue are pathetically repeated. The audience is asked to believe that college girls find group sex, hard drugs and an occasional arrest preferable to the boredom of a college education. There is not a single character in this film that you won’t passionately dislike, and I mean no one.

The film focuses on four college female friends, two of them played by the Disney veterans Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens. The girls spend the entire film in skimpy attire, which proves to be their greatest attribute.

Furthermore, you quickly get an idea of where this movie is heading when the four airheads pull off an armed robbery of a restaurant near their school in order to obtain the money needed for their spring vacation. As I told Thamer, it is best to avoid these ladies at all times, as who knows when they will stick a gun to your head to rob you if times prove desperate.

But the movie becomes wretchedly morbid with the appearance of James Franco. A white drug dealer/gangsta rapper with a collection of silver teeth, the girls link up with him when he gets them out of jail. Sadly, all but Ms. Gomez find themselves enamored with a guy who resembles one of the characters in George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” (1968).

While the film tries to repeatedly focus on the excesses that occur during spring break, it all becomes meaningless. Mr. Franco ends up in a war with some black competitors led by Gucci Mane, and the girls soon become quite accomplished as his adoring hit women.

There are many dull, repulsive things about this convoluted film, most centering on the decision of director Harmony Korine to paint college girls as little more than born floozies who view college as a complete waste of time. It is one thing to embrace a spring break trip as a week of frivolity and excess, but quite another to treat it as a door into a murderous, sadistic lifestyle.

The Gatekeepers

Dror Moreh’s documentary “The Gatekeepers” deserved its Oscar nomination this past year. Though “Searching for Sugar Man” won the top prize in this category, it is hard to understand how this searing political mosaic could have been denied.

In a not so subtle manner, Moreh shines a spotlight on the unending Israeli/Palestinian conflict. By gaining candid interviews with the six retired former heads of Israel’s Shin Bet, he allows them to tell their remarkable stories in a fashion that pulls no punches concerning lost hope and disappointing dreams.

You need to remember all six gentlemen: Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri and Avraham Shalom. While all remember the lingering PLO threat to drive Israel into the sea, they force all supporters of Israel to confront uncomfortable truths. As the leaders of the Israeli security agency, they carating2ll upon their country and supporters to remember Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s willingness to take necessary chances in the name of long-term regional survival.

On the surface, these guys are remarkably candid concerning their principal goal of eliminating suspected terrorists. When a question was asked if they worried about the morality of their occasional actions, one responded that morality plays no role when you are dealing with terrorists. In other words, they don’t have any, so you don’t either.

However, what is so stunning about the film is the obvious regret shared by our retired “Gang of Six.” For example, they alone could be intuitive enough to articulate that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Simply put, this struggle cannot be determined by military force.

This film is a provocative reminder that when backing Israel politically, nothing is gained when everything is approved. These Shin Bet gurus point out the unfortunate tragedy that followed Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War in 1967. More to the point, the observation was made that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is chillingly reminiscent of Germany’s occupation of France, Holland and Czechoslovakia during World War II. One cannot ignore the significance of that point when it is made by a former Jewish head of Shin Bet.

Finally, all the guys felt that there was a failure of political will in Israel following the assassination of Rabin in 1995. While the Palestinians under Yasser Arafat were trying to make sense out of cooperating with Rabin’s Israel, the manic opposition in Israel clearly played a role in Rabin’s death. Any student of history can see the end result, which includes Israeli settlements in the occupied territory more than doubling.

This is a film that needs to be seen, and the six Shin Bet men need to be heard. They are thoughtful and passionately honest, and they know that the Israelis and Palestinians cannot solve their ongoing conflict without sitting down and talking. You may not like your adversary, but that is no excuse to avoid a conversation.•


Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

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