What could possibly go wrong? An American movie about assassinating the leader of a nation which the U.S. had branded as part of the international axis of evil. The targeted leader, routinely vilified in the U.S., constantly raises threats of nuclear war. The assassination movie is launched from a country with a long and shameful history of involvement in the murder of perceived enemy leaders.
The movie's star, Seth Rogen, promotes the film telling the international press: "Maybe the tapes of the movie will make their way to North Korea and cause a revolution." (Seth Rogen at the Crossroads, Rolling Stone, 12/17/2014) When the other lead, James Franco, is asked in the movie why Kim Jong-un must be killed, he replies: "It's the American way." Indeed, the U.S. has been implicated in the deaths of Chile's democratically elected President Salvadore Allende; Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo; Ngô Đình Diệm, the first president of South Vietnam; Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop; and repeated failed attempts to murder Cuba's Fidel Castro.
Perhaps then it was no surprise when an anonymous group calling itself "The Guardians of Peace" hacked Sony studio's computers releasing embarrassing internal correspondence, personal information and a threat of violence against the studio should it go ahead with its planned Christmas Day release of the film. "Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time." (Daily Beast, 12/19/2014)
Sony blinked. It cancelled the release of The Interview. Then it paused. As it began to rally industry and some political backing, Sony rolled out the movie to select smaller locations. Security was tight. Media scrutiny was intense. Viewers thronged to the few sites where the film was available or crashed the net to watch it online.
Viewers were rewarded for being intrepid. What they saw was a better than average mock historical comedy, a cut above most of the other dope-infused slacker movies that Seth Rogen and James Franco have produced. As with most comedy, it was a bit uneven. As with most Rogen and Franco enterprises there were ample set pieces dealing with sex and drugs. But the writing was tighter, the set-ups more clever and even the stars seemed more engaged than en-weed.
Franco, as Dave Skylark, is the fatuous host of television tabloid "Skylark Tonight." Rogen is his trusty producer Aaron Rapoport, who yearns to do serious reportage. Viewers are treated to fare such as a hilarious, soul-baring interview with rapper Eminem. When Franco and Rogen discover that President of North Korea Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show, they secure an interview. But before they are able to leave for North Korea, they are recruited by CIA Agent Lizzy Caplan to assassinate Kim.
Of course, disposing of Kim will be more difficult than either the CIA or talk hosts can imagine. Randall Park (Larry Crowne, Neighbors, Sex Tape) as Kim Jong-un steals the show. His Kim is a commanding presence -- unctuous, charming, wily, dangerous... though ultimately flawed. Park and the very humorous Diana Bang as Sook are quite a good complement to Rogen and Franco.
Entertaining though film may be, perhaps its true merit may rest more with raising issues of censorship on one hand and of U.S. intervention on the other hand. How much more inept has our devious foreign interventionism been than that of self-promoting television personalities on a fool's errand? We need only to look at our misguided efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and our history of less than diplomatic foreign policy.