Roland Emmerich will always be known for his work in big budget films. The director has such iconic titles as Independence Day, Stargate and The Day After Tomorrow on his resume and usually his name on a film poster means ‘big’ and ‘loud’. But that doesn’t mean a director can’t stretch its legs every once and a while and that is exactly what Emmerich has done with Stonewall his new film that chronicles actual events in 1969 New York.
Stonewall follows the experience of Danny Winters (Jeremy Irvine) who is forced out of his small mid-American town after he is discovered to be a homosexual. This is 1969. Homosexuals in America were not allowed to hold government jobs. They were not allowed to congregate. They were not allowed alcohol. Danny’s unaccepting parents and his lack of understanding from his peers lead force him to travel to New York City where he finds refuge in Greenwich Village with other homeless homosexual, lesbian and transgender individuals in what is known as the Stonewall Inn.
The area to which the Inn is located is anything but safe. Crime, drugs and the mafia have an ever presence in the community and the residents are continually harassed by the over anxious and homophobic police. The police continually raid the bars to which the group congregate until one such day when the community rises up to their oppressor and fight back in what is considered a landmark of the LGBT movement. Danny and his new found friends are at the heart of the rebellion and it is their ‘we’re not gonna take it anymore’ attitude that leads to violence and a dramatic shift in the movement.
Emmerich has never been known for his strong characters and intelligent dialogue. But he outdoes himself here with stupid verbal exchanges from his characters that is so bad you would think it was a foreign non-English speaking director who doesn’t have a grasp of the English language allowing such dead dialogue.
The incomprehensible dialogue only makes for worse acting among the cast. Not a single character in the film is likeable or relatable. With the exception of Danny they come across as thugs, thieves and drug addicts. Hard to lean to their side of the conflict when its routine for them to steal from local stores and throw bricks through storefront windows for trivial fashion accessories. Still, even if we were to overlook their flaws the acting is trite and hollow with not a single character rising above the script pages.
Only recognizable face Ron Perlman is able to escape without wrath, but he has such little work to do in the film that it is clear he was only added to the feature to at least have one familiar name on the marquee.
The filmmakers likely believed that the final reel of their film would bring an audience to its feet. To have people inspired and applauding in the victory the legacy of the real life event. Instead, it brought snores. It brought the painful realization that you just spent 129 minutes watching something that you hoped would give you better insight into a piece of our history but instead was a painful experience where the checking of our wrists for the latest time was our utmost importance as we counted down the minutes.
This is easily Emmerich’s biggest pratfall. Not only is it his worst film of his filmography but it is also a front runner for the worst film of the year.
Side note: There were protesters outside the cinema to where Stonewall had its screening protesting the inaccurate portrayal of the events. The protesters likely had not seen the film. If they had they would know that the inaccuracies are the least of the films concerns.