- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 19, 2004

“She Hate Me,” the latest from filmmaker provocateur Spike Lee, is so undisciplined and overstuffed with big subjects, any one of which might have sustained a whole movie, that it’s easily the thinnest and least persuasive of his career.

By my count: A two-for-the-price-of-one swipe at Enron-style graft and the pharmaceutical industry; the demonization of whistle-blowers; the AIDS epidemic of Africa (but not India); institutional racism; the objectification of black male sexuality; incarceration of black males; the crisis of black families; lesbianism; and …

… Yet another anti-Bush tirade. What would a serious movie be without one? Mr. Lee runs the opening credits of “She Hate Me” with animated pictures of undulating greenbacks, including a three-dollar-bill with George W. Bush on it.

What makes America go ‘round is money, money, money, and at the beginning of “Hate,” Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie), a young black executive of a New York biotech company, has piles of it.

Armstrong’s plush world is rocked, however, when he finds out the company’s purported AIDS vaccine failed to pass muster with the Food and Drug Administration, an insider drama that exposes an accounting scandal and compels one dutiful researcher into suicide.

An attack of conscience sends Armstrong to the company’s supposedly confidential ethics division, but nefarious CEO Leland Powell (Woody Harrelson, doing Ken Lay) and his underling Margo Chadwick (Ellen Barkin, doing Martha Stewart) catch wind of the whistle-blowing.

See ya, Jack.

That’s about where an Oliver Stone would have stopped and dug deeper. Mr. Lee keeps going, skimming new surfaces and leaving behind a trail of cheap-shot moralism.

It’s here that “She Hate Me” pivots into comic absurdity. Armstrong is visited one night by an ex-fiancee, Fatima (Kerry Washington), with a proposal: Impregnate her and her lesbian partner (Dania Ramirez) and make a cool 10 grand. Semi-reluctantly, he agrees, and it doesn’t end there; Fatima founds a fertilization enterprise, herding groups of lesbians into Armstrong’s bedroom.

Soon, Armstrong is servicing four ladies a night. He needs help from Viagra and Red Bull energy drinks, but Mr. Lee’s, and co-writer Michael Genet’s, joke is clear: Armstrong is the stereotypical, anatomically gifted black sexual stallion. His mother, you’ll notice, calls him by his full name, John Henry, after the legendary black steel-driver (or possibly the famous racehorse). Armstrong’s father is played by none other than the football legend Jim Brown, whose character is stricken with diabetes complications.

What any of this has to do with corporate greed is beyond me, and, anyway, it’s possible that the filmmakers are unintentionally confirming the stallion stereotype as they spoof it. Is Mr. Lee, perhaps, decrying the instrumentalization of black men? And, in this case, are the shoes of the proverbial Man being filled by take-charge homosexual women?

Oh, why bother with a train of thought? By the time your head stops spinning all these zigzagging themes — muddled even further by yet another Terence Blanchard soundtrack of droopy, back-alley jazz — Mr. Lee will have you in the bowels of the Watergate hotel for a re-enactment of the infamous 1972 break-in. And then he’ll have you sitting with a mafioso, played by John Turturro, doing a Marlon Brando imitation.

Then, finally, haphazardly, to Capitol Hill, for a sensational congressional hearing that’s open to TV cameras and yet requires the work of a courtroom sketch artist.

It’s incoherencies such as these that make “She Hate Me” a very unwatchable and very, very stupid movie.

TITLE: “She Hate Me”

RATING: R (Strong sexuality, nudity; profanity; depiction of suicide)

CREDITS: Directed by Spike Lee. Produced by Preston L. Holmes, Mr. Lee and Fernando Sulichin. Written by Michael Genet and Mr. Lee. Cinematography by Matthew Libatique. Music by Terence Blanchard.

RUNNING TIME: 138 minutes.

WEB SITE: https://www.sonyclassics.

com/shehateme

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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