Redacted & r & & r & by BEN KROMER & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & ost Americans don't bother asking themselves hard questions such as "Are our soldiers bloodthirsty savages?" For writer/director/closet hippie Brian DePalma, it's asked and answered: "Totally, man."

Redacted tells the story of Iraqi civilians and the soldiers who love to rape and murder them. To be fair, it's true that U.S. soldiers did rape a girl, did murder her and her family, and are now spending the rest of their lives in military prison. DePalma decided, however, that this last part wasn't important enough to be included in his movie.

Redacted is crude propaganda. That's not an opinion, just an obvious observation -- and as a dedicated fan of Rocky IV, I know something about crude propaganda. To be fair, though, at least Redacted depicts at least one American soldier who has serious reservations about his buddies committing war crimes. Hurray for him! Even Nazi-produced anti-Semitic films didn't bother to show any benign, innocent-bystander Jews -- so you have to give DePalma credit for supporting the troops more than the Nazis supported the Jews.

Still, most of Redacted is just a cipher for the director's multitudinous fears: fear of Republicans, fear of the South, fear of the military, fear of what the French think, and fear of his own irrelevance. Smart guy that he is, he correctly realized that making a cheap movie would be easier and safer than actually spitting directly on actual soldiers. The visual style of the movie -- a mix of handheld amateur footage, fake documentary stuff and things found on the Internet -- conveys DePalma's anxiety that the Information Age is going on without him. He's right to be afraid: No one today really needs an old, terrified hack director.

Redacted concludes with a semi-controversial montage of photos of dead Iraqis. These are gen-u-ine dead Iraqis. I'll say this for him: Brian DePalma is the only mainstream director willing to embrace mondo-style filmmaking. Redacted is stupid and depressing, but it's also the closest thing in years to a new Faces of Death. (Rated R)

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