What do Giovanni Ribisi and David Koresh have in common? For that matter, what do Adrien Brody, Kurt Russell, Sharon Stone and the ATF have in common? Well sir, this fall, the indie pic Waco begins principal photography, set to be a recounting of the story of that jewel in the ATF’s crown of thorns, the botched raid on the Branch Davidian compound, just outside of Waco. And when Hollywood gets hold of you, it’s time to place your bets on just how bad the ATF’s gonna come out smelling.
My guess? The ATF is gonna make the Keystone Cops look like the Mossad by comparison. Remember the details . . .
ATF ‘infiltrates’ the Branch Davidians and determines they have a whole lotta guns there. They decide to raid the joint. Only op-sec is blown from the get-go, as it’s apparently common knowledge that the ATF is stopping by for a bit of a chin-wag at the end of an M-16.
Whoopsie? It seems not everyone in the good ol’ USA takes it lightly when Uncle Sam sends in the storm troopers. As a result, the ATF got their asses shot off. (Fortunately, the ATF seems to have a limitless supply of asses, so they had no need to restock the larder.)
Fifty days later, Monica Lewinski’s boy-toy gave orders to the Janet “I am the Law ’round these parts” Reno to send in the troops. The FBI took over from the ATF and proceeded to storm the joint with enough firepower (a tank?! really?) to level the place. Which is pretty much what happened, although the government claimed that Koresh’s followers blew up the place rather than be captured, while the supporters of the Branch Davidians claim that the tear gas rounds fired into the compound combusted to blow the place sky high.
Let’s just say there’s enough mistakes to go around on this one. How those mistakes are portrayed will be the interesting part. I don’t mean to make light of this in the least. In the initial raid, four ATF agents died, as did six Branch Davidians. In the FBI raid that ended the standoff, seventy-six people died in the fire, including two pregnant women, more than 20 children, and David Koresh himself.
IMDb.com has Ribisi playing Koresh, Russell portraying FBI negotiator Byron Sage, with Brody and Stone as Steve and Judy Schneider, followers of Koresh who died in the fire. No word on the rest of the cast (yet), but word has it that the story will be told from multiple points of view. Waco‘s director Rupert Wainwright’s own website offers this summary:
Waco will be the first narrative feature film to explore the events of the ATF raid on Mount Carmel, Texas, the 51-day siege that followed, and the devastating compound fire that resulted in the deaths of 81 civilians. The movie cuts between ATF special agents, FBI negotiators, the Davidians on the inside, the tactical Hostage Rescue Team leaders, and the political machinations in Washington.
Oh boy. I particularly like that last turn of phrase “the political machinations in Washington.” It seems that just about everything the ATF touches turns to crap, and the Waco raid was no exception. (See also: “Ruby Ridge,” “Project Gunwalker” et al.)
The timing on this film will be interesting. According to IMDb, it’s scheduled for release this year, which may be just in time to affect the Presidential and Congressional elections in 2012.
What makes this fascinating to me, is that Hollywood typically has it in for “the Man,” especially when it comes to storm trooper activity. (Unless we’re talking about S.W.A.T. the movie. Then it’s okay.) But Hollywood also has an undying love and affection for President Clinton. So the question is, will they portray the Branch Davidians as nutjobs who got what they deserved and the ATF as sober and thoughtful, “just doing our job” types who were viciously ambushed by Koresh’s guys, or will they take the business as usual approach where the little guys are heroes and the government is the Evil Empire?
I don’t know. It may well be that the two poles cancel each other out, and we get a fair and balanced approach to the events. (What are the odds?) The truth is out there – somewhere. My take has been that Koresh was a whack job, but a well-armed one, and the ATF did one of their patented “Civil rights? We’ll shred the Constitution and get back to you on that one” raids. But found that The Branch Davidian guys had read that script and had a few edits to that day’s shooting schedule.
One thing’s an almost slam-dunk cert: just by reviving talk of the Waco raid, it can’t be good news for the ATF. No matter how the film turns out, it stirs the stink, and the last thing the ATF needs right now is more people talking about how they are a bunch of out-of-control cowboys, that apparently think they are a law unto themselves. And evidently, always have been.