Like its title, Heist: Who Stole the American Dream? purports to ask a question but is only interested in forwarding its predictable agitprop answer. The crux of nonfiction directors Donald Goldmacher and Frances Causey’s outrage is American financial inequality, with corporations and their government bedmates (Obama included) cast as avaricious forces that have exploited deregulation and tax loopholes to enrich themselves and disenfranchise the working class. Given the doc’s wide-ranging scope, it’s no surprise that many of its arguments about multi-national misbehavior ring infuriatingly true. However, as with so many of its call-to-arms brethren, Heist sabotages itself by cramming in so many hot-button topics (unions, tax cuts, media bias, 401(k)s, Social Security, Hurricane Katrina, the environment) that each winds up shortchanged. As epitomized by its public-service-announcement-grade narrator’s summarizing line, “We now know what we’re up against,” the film is content to preach only to the people already likely to pay to see it. That attitude extends to Goldmacher and Causey’s reliance on a tired structural formula: Combining archival news broadcasts and photos, contemporary protest footage, talking-head interviews, and graphical and cartoon interludes, it’s a work that continues the liberal-political documentary subgenre’s own war against aesthetic maturity and inventiveness.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 29, 2012