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This image released by Cinedigm shows Dakota Fanning in a scene from ‘Night Movies.’ (AP)
Eco-terrorism grips in ‘Night Moves’ Controversial Herbalife battle focus of award-winning filmmakers’ new docu

In Kelly Reichardt’s spare, eco-terrorist thriller, the two spurts of violence that disturb the placid pine forests of the Pacific Northwest are each hazy with fog. One is a misty nighttime bombing of a hydroelectric dam, the other a fatal encounter in a sauna. A thick moral cloudiness hangs over “Night Moves,” Reichardt’s fifth film. Three disillusioned environmentalist radicals conspire to send a message by blowing up a dam that has upset the local ecosystem. Clad in wet wool hats, they’re far from romantic terrorists like Carlos the Jackal. One, after all, is played by Jesse Eisenberg.

They can hardly articulate their extremism. Josh (Eisenberg), a taciturn organic farm worker in Oregon, mumbles something about a local dam “killing all the salmon just so you can run your (expletive) iPod every second of your life.” He’s joined by a reckless former Marine named Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), knowing in matters of destruction, and Dena (Dakota Fanning), an earnest college dropout rebelling against her family’s wealth.

What Reichardt captures in “Night Moves” is the bitter despair of those fighting the hydra-headed forces of rampant consumerism and environmental destruction. They may be tragically misguided in turning to violence, but they’re spoiling for any kind of tangible action. Their urgency warps their logic to the point of violence, with unforeseen consequences. Dena, though young and breezy, is almost nihilistic: “It’ll all go fast in the end,” she says, predicting the end of days with a shrug.

A manic, stuttering awkwardness has long been Eisenberg’s stock in trade. But he’s been expanding (he also stars in the recently released doppelganger thriller “The Double”), and in “Night Moves,” he has an atypically quiet intensity. Reichardt’s sparsely naturalistic dramas with Michelle Williams — the drifter tale “Wendy and Lucy” and the Western “Meek’s Cutoff” were more bare, but “Night Moves” still gets much of its drama from the currents of paranoia and uncertainty that flicker across Eisenberg’s face.

“Night Moves” has a sure-handedness that shows Reichardt is still growing as a filmmaker. The scene at the dam, in particular, is suspenseful, and the rugged Oregon landscapes are vivid. But the movie also sticks mainly to familiar rhythms of such thrillers — the conspiratorial build up and the fractious fallout. Reichardt, filming the action objectively, doesn’t judge the actions of the three. But the alternative in the film — living peacefully in yurts removed from the rest of the world — also doesn’t feel like a satisfactory answer for Reichardt. If pressed, I’d still take 1975’s pulpy “Night Moves,” with Gene Hackman as a private eye, over Reichardt’s film. But “Night Moves” has its own mournful moodiness, heavy with a bleak helplessness about how to defend a Mother Nature beset on all sides. “Night Moves,” a Cinedigm Entertainment release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some language and nudity.” Running time: 112 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Herbalife, the most controversial nutritional supplement company in the world, has spent the last few years in the spotlight. Now, it’s about to get a whole lot more attention. Filmmaker Ted Braun, the director of the National Board of Review-nominated and NAACP Image Award-winning documentary “Darfur Now,” will next direct a doc about the direct-selling business and Wall Street flashpoint, TheWrap has learned. The film will be produced by Glen Zipper, the producer of the Oscar-winning doc “Undefeated,” and Devin Adair.
Herbalife is in the midst of a two-pronged battle with an investor Bill Ackman, who is short-selling the stock in a more than $1 billion bet, and regulators who question the company’s nutritional claims and also suspect it of being an exploitative pyramid scheme.

“There are two dimensions to Herbalife: nutrition and business or, as they say, health and wealth,” Braun told TheWrap. “The nutritional dimension is not a burning public issue at the moment, but the question of whether their business model is a pyramid scheme lies at the center of this battle and our film. At the moment characters on different sides of this conflict believe that their opponents are not only in error, but wrong. So they’re fighting with great zeal and with all the resources they can muster. For them this is not just a matter of judgment but has moved to a question of morality — right and wrong, good and evil.”
As Braun describes, there are many lives and billions of dollars hanging in the balance.

“The company’s life is at stake. Ackman has said publicly he believes Herbalife’s stock price should be zero. And he has put $1 billion of Pershing Square’s assets on the line,” he said. “So his company, and he and his reputation, are also at great risk. In addition there are ordinary Americans, established families as well as hardworking recent immigrants, with huge amounts at stake for them. Some have changed their lives through Herbalife and have extraordinary hopes tied to the success of the company. Others feel ruined byHerbalife and are in search of justice. I’m expecting to find a great documentary situated squarely at the crossroads of money and the American dream. It will be brought to life by engaging characters on all sides and at all levels of this 21st century battle.” (Agencies) The film began production last fall and is expected to be completed early next year.

By Jake Coyle

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