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Over the past decade (or thereabouts; his work is almost invariably released in the U.S. years after being shot), writer-director Terry Green has made three films, the first of which, the John Mahoney–starring Almost Salinas, was self-distributed in 2003. That one’s since been lost in the home-video ether, but the next two — Heavens Fall, from 2006, and No God, No Master, his newest work — indicate that Green is both a capable filmmaker and a clear history buff.
Green favors trailblazing public figures railing against social injustice: in Heavens Fall, it’s Timothy Hutton’s Samuel Leibowitz, a New York lawyer who travels to Alabama in 1933 to defend the Scottsboro Boys; in No God, No Master, it’s U.S. Bureau of Investigation Agent William Flynn (Heavens Fall alum David Strathairn), who, in post-WWI New York, mounts a moral attack against elite city officials while investigating a series of packaged trigger bombs that are being delivered to the likes of J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller Sr.
Green’s historical diligence proves rewarding, both in the retelling of certain events (the Ludlow Massacre, glimpsed in photographs) and in Billy Jett’s production design, which is convincing in everything from the store names (Angelo’s Tomatoes, Gallo’s Drogheria) to the Mulberry Street apartments.
But the movie, shot largely in Milwaukee in 2009, can still be dry: Though Strathairn’s a fine actor, his Flynn doesn’t possess the same charisma Hutton brought to Heavens Fall.
And the villains — particularly Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer (Ray Wise, the last name of his character inevitably conjuring memories of Twin Peaks) — come off as uniformly one-dimensional.