Film review: 'Fascism' begins well, then fizzles

Published: Friday, Oct. 6 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

AMERICA: FROM FREEDOM TO FASCISM — ** — Documentary feature examining the federal income tax system; not rated, probable PG-13 (violence, profanity, vulgarity).

"America: From Freedom to Fascism" doesn't know how to quit when it's ahead. This documentary feature begins as a think piece questioning the legality of the federal income tax system and scores several points along the way.

Then about halfway through, filmmaker Aaron Russo begins rambling about One World Government, international banking and cabals involving the news media and business interests. The film quickly loses both steam and credibility, and it never recovers.

Russo is a film producer (among his credits are the movies "Trading Places" and "The Rose") and one-time Nevada gubernatorial candidate. But his first directorial effort since the 1989 Cheech and Chong vehicle "Rude Awakening" is a considerably more personality-invested project.

In "Freedom to Fascism," he looks at the cases of people who have challenged the federal income tax. They include a handful of former IRS agents who stopped paying their taxes, believing there is no legal statute requiring them to.

There is food for thought here. But Russo loses his grasp on the material once he expands his focus.

It doesn't help that he's constantly promoting himself. And some of his more heavy-handed tactics — such as the text "crawls" inciting Americans to rally — make the efforts of Michael Moore seem almost subtle by comparison.

"America: From Freedom to Fascism" is not rated but would probably receive a PG-13 for strong violent imagery (newsreel footage of rioting and warfare), and scattered profanity and other suggestive language (slang terms). Running time: 95 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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