[Screen It]


(1999) (Ethan Hawke, Youki Kudoh) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
None Heavy Heavy Moderate Moderate
Minor Minor Heavy None Heavy
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Heavy Minor Moderate Moderate Moderate

Drama: As a 1950 murder trial stirs up memories of Japanese-American internment during WWII, a reporter remembers his former friendship and love for an American born, Japanese woman who's now married to the defendant.
Nine years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the American and Japanese-American residents of a small Pacific Northwest town get along reasonably well. That is, until a murder trial resurrects racism, suspicions and memories of the past. When a local fisherman, Carl Heine (ERIC THAL), is found dead, several bits of evidence and allegations point to Kazuo Miyamoto (RICK YUNE), an American born young man of Japanese descent, as the suspect.

As prosecutor Alvin Hooks (JAMES REBHORN) and defense attorney Nels Gudmundsson (MAX VON SYDOW) make their respective cases before Judge Fielding (JAMES CROMWELL) and the local jury, Ishmael Chambers (ETHAN HAWKE), a one-armed reporter and war veteran becomes interested in the case. Not only is the trial intriguing to him due to the journalistic blood he inherited from his publisher father, Arthur (SAM SHEPARD), but the defendant's wife, Hatsue (YOUKI KUDOH), was at one time his secret childhood friend and then teen lover.

With various witnesses, such as sheriff Art Moran (RICHARD JENKINS), Carl's widow Susan Marie Heine (ARIJA BAREIKIS), and his mother Etta (CELIA WESTON) called to the stand, their testimony brings up revealing facts about the case, the defendant and the way Japanese Americans were treated during the war.

It also resurrects a plethora of memories and flashbacks for Ishmael as he remembers the times when he and Hatsue (REEVE CARNEY & ANNE SUZUKI) would spend friendly and intimate time together in the hollowed out base of an old cedar tree. Of course the war came along and interrupted everything, with him heading off into service when she and her family were sent off to internment camps.

As those varying memories - including the time when Hatsue called off their secret romance -- pervade his consciousness, Ishmael must decide what to do with a vital piece of evidence that could affect the outcome of the trial and his chances of ever getting his former lover back.

Unless they're fans of someone in the cast or of the original novel, it's not very likely.
For disturbing images, sensuality and brief strong language.
  • ETHAN HAWKE plays a young reporter who's returned from WWII a somewhat bitter, and now one-armed young man who's still drawn to the love of his life, a young Japanese-American woman he previously fooled around with. He must decide what to do with some important evidence he's discovered regarding the court case and briefly uses one instance of strong profanity.
  • YOUKI KUDOH plays that young woman who's now concerned about the legal fate of her husband and no longer wants anything to do with Ishmael.
  • RICK YUNE plays the defendant, an American born war veteran who finds himself charged with murder and facing racial injustice.
  • MAX VON SYDOW plays his old but wise defense attorney.
  • JAMES REBHORN plays the prosecutor who tries to use the racial card against the defendant in the case.
  • JAMES CROMWELL plays the judge who tries to play down and eliminate the racial elements of the case.
  • ERIC THAL plays the somewhat prejudiced man who ends up being the victim.
  • ARIJA BAREIKIS plays the victim's widow.
  • CELIA WESTON plays the victim's mother, a prejudiced woman who has it out for the Japanese-Americans.


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.

    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this PG-13 rated drama. Profanity is rated as heavy due to 1 use of the "f" word, while only a handful of other profanities and colorful phrases are present. What's present in greater quantity are bad attitudes in the form of prejudice that's evident in the court case as well as flashbacks related to the treatment of Japanese Americans during and after WWII.

    Some sensual/sexual material is present in the form of a couple consummating their marriage (with some movement and in the same room, albeit behind hung sheets, as other family members), another couple fooling around in a shower, and teen lovers fooling around (the extent of which is never absolutely clear).

    Some wartime violence occurs and includes images of dead soldiers in the water, half-buried in tidal sands and in a bunker. A man's amputated and somewhat bloody and gory arm is also seen and those images and more may be unsettling or suspenseful for some viewers (and are accompanied by a heavy amount of related ominous music). Other violence occurs in the form of a mysterious death that serves as the catalyst for a murder trial.

    Beyond that, some related tense family moments and brief smoking, the rest of the film is relatively void of any other major objectionable content. Nonetheless, should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, you may wish to more closely examine our detailed content listings.

  • None.
  • Although neither bloody nor gory, we see Carl's body as it's partially pulled from the water in a fishing net.
  • Later, we see Carl's fully clothed body on the autopsy table. As the coroner pushes down on his chest, foamy mucous comes from his nose. Later, the coroner finds a head wound that we briefly see in close up (and looks like brain matter oozed out from a wound).
  • Some blood runs from a German soldier's nose after being hit in the face with a rifle butt.
  • We see glimpses of the amputation of Ishmael's arm during the war and then see two views of the amputated limb (with its bloody/gory wound).
  • We see a slightly bloody cut on Carl's hand (not related to his later death).
  • Several locals refer to the Japanese-Americans as "Japs" and they and others then treat those people badly upon the outbreak of WWII (as well as are demeaning to Kazuo during the trial and try to use the race card to influence the jury).
  • Hatsue's mother tells her (at a young age) to stay away from "white boys."
  • We learn that Etta (the victim's mother), sold all of Kazuo's family's land during the time in which they were relocated in internment camps during the war.
  • Ishmael withholds evidence (and nearly burns it) that could exonerate Kazuo (because he still wants Hatsue for himself).
  • Arthur Chambers gets threatening messages of suggested violence for the views he takes in his paper.
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" and/or "Blood/Gore" may also be unsettling or suspenseful to some viewers.
  • A scene set aboard Carl's boat at night in the fog and a subsequent one where the Sheriff and another man pull in his fishing net only to reveal Carl dead, may be unsettling or suspenseful to some viewers.
  • We see several shots of Ishmael (and others) underwater during a battle scene set in WWII. We then see several views of dead soldiers half-buried in tidal sands.
  • We see glimpses of the amputation of Ishmael's arm during the war and then see two views of the amputated limb (with its bloody/gory wound).
  • We see Carl's boating accident and see his body sinking in the water.
  • Rifles/Machine guns/Hand grenade: Seen in flashbacks to WWII where Kazuo carries a rifle, avoids enemy machine gun fire and throws a grenade into a bunker, killing and/or injuring some Germans.
  • Dynamite: Discovered by the Feds as they arrest Hatsue's father (he claims it's for clearing tree stumps).
  • Rifles: Carried by American soldiers.
  • Phrases: "F*cking Jap bitch," and "Balls" (testicles).
  • Kazuo suddenly kicks a gun away from someone (the sudden loud action may startle some viewers).
  • A heavy amount of ominous and suspenseful music plays during the film.
  • None.
  • At least 1 "f" word, 4 hells, 1 damn and 2 uses of "Jesus" and 1 of "God" as exclamations.
  • In silhouette and as teens, we see Ishmael and Hatsue apparently starting to undress each other. Some passionate kissing and heavy breathing follows, but we don't see anything else.
  • We see Ishmael and Hatsue making out again (both clothed), with him on top of her and between her legs (but we can't really tell exactly what they're doing).
  • Through a smoked glass shower door, we see a flashback to Carl and Susan Marie making out and caressing in the shower (but we can't really tell what they're doing due to the less than completely transparent door, although there looks like there could be some movement).
  • We see Hatsue and Kazuo on their wedding day as they prepare to consummate their marriage in their internment room along with the rest of one of their families. As such, they ask for some music to be played (to give them some aural privacy) and then pull a curtain for the same, although one girl can see their feet as well as Hatsue's dress as it drops to the floor. We then see them in bed with him on top of her and they kiss. He then asks if she's done this before and she replies that she never has, that he's her only one. We then see suggested movement (and hear related sounds) with a view of just their heads and shoulders as they have sex.
  • A few miscellaneous characters smoke (one a pipe), while Nels has a cigar in one scene.
  • Susan Marie gets the bad news that her husband is dead and reacts accordingly.
  • Hatsue's family reacts to the Feds taking her father away as an alleged war criminal.
  • We see a brief flashback to Ishmael's father's funeral (with Ishmael and his mother leaving the cemetery).
  • The Romeo and Juliet style romance of Ishmael and Hatsue (they're secretly lovers, but don't tell anyone else and can't even sit together on the bus).
  • The internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.
  • Although the actual death isn't seen, a man dies from drowning (as well as a blow to the head) that's initially considered to be a murder, but is later identified only as an accident.
  • In a WWII flashback, Kazuo avoids enemy machine gun fire and then throws a grenade into a bunker, killing and/or injuring some Germans. Once inside, he fires some shots and then kicks a weapon away from an injured soldier and then strikes him in the head with the butt of his rifle when he thinks the German is making potentially hostile movements.
  • We see some brief war footage, but it's mainly the aftermath showing dead soldiers in the water and/or half buried in tidal sands.

  • Reviewed January 6, 2000 / Posted January 7, 2000

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