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Arlington Road (1999)
Rated R

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, and Joan Cusack

Rating:
*1/2
out of
*****

Jeff Bridges plays Michael Faraday, a professor at George Washington University. He teaches a class in, of all things, terrorism. His wife, an FBI agent, was killed several years ago in a botched raid on a suspected terrorist's home. Michael's son, Grant (Spencer Treat Clark), is wary of his father's new love interest, Brooke (Hope Davis), a graduate student.

Through a string of occurrences, Michael strikes up a friendship with his neighbor, Oliver Lang (Tim Robbins). The friendship offers many things that Michael and Grant need in their life, like companionship. After a few weeks, however, Michael begins to suspect that Oliver may be hiding something. He begins to do a little research into some of the facts in Oliver's stories. He finds that Oliver may not be who he says he is.

Ignoring increased skepticism from his girlfriend and his FBI buddy (Robert Gossett), Michael becomes obsessed with finding the truth behind Oliver's past. As the film progresses, a strange set of circumstances comes into play and the movie tumbles to its rather somber ending.

Though the movie does have some interesting things to say about the way the government deals with terrorism and acts of violent crime, it offers little in the way of solid entertainment. Other than pressing a few emotional buttons and making one think about past events like the Oklahoma City Bombing and Ruby Ridge, the movie's poor script and rather bland direction fail to elevate it to a level where those attributes do anything to stave off your urge to take the movie back to Blockbuster before it's over.

Jeff Bridges, whose swollen-looking face and slurred speech seem to indicate he filmed the movie shortly after a barroom brawl, mumbles his way through most of his scenes. Tim Robbins, who is normally one of my favorite actors, doesn't add much to his scenes at all. Joan Cusack brings a welcome bit of creepiness to her role. The other members of the cast could be replaced by anyone and they'd still take a backseat to the poor pacing and plodding dialogue.

By the time the "shocking" ending finally arrived, the only feeling I had was one of relief. Relief in knowing that, although I'd never get the two hours I wasted on this film back, I could warn others not to waste their time with this movie.

Trivia: The release of this film was delayed due to the shootings in Littleton, Colorado. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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