Redacted **

"Redacted" portrays the brutality of war using actors. An earlier film, "The War Tapes," did the same thing, with real soldiers, real events.

With Patrick Carroll, Rob Devaney, Izzy Diaz, Mike Figueroa and Ty Jones. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures. 1 hour, 31 mins. R (violence, sexual violence, profanity, adult themes). Playing at Ritz at the Bourse.

For anyone who saw The War Tapes - and there weren't many because that's the problem dogging almost every film about the Iraq conflict - Redacted is going to seem even more of a cheat than it is.

In reality, Redacted, the work of director Brian DePalma, offers footage - ostensibly from a Pfc.'s minicam, a French documentary crew, Arab TV, radical Islamic Web sites and closed-circuit security cameras - assembled and intercut to tell the story of the rape and murder of a 15-year-old Iraqi, the killing of her family, and subsequent cover-up by U.S. soldiers. It's brutal stuff - but contrived and stagy, like a mediocre play.

The War Tapes, by comparison, was what Redacted only pretends to be: real videos by real troops (three National Guardsmen) patroling the roads and ruins of Baghdad and Fallujah, worrying about their lives, and wondering what the heck they're doing there.

DePalma opens with a disclaimer that his piece is "entirely fiction," albeit a fiction inspired by the March 2006 rape and killings by U.S. troops in Mahmoudiya. Then the viewer meets the Alfa Company grunts: Angel Salazar (Izzy Diaz) recording his buddies on video; Gabe Blix (Kel O'Neill), a bespectacled bookworm; McCoy (Rob Devaney), a lawyer; and B.B. Rush (Daniel Stewart Sherman) and Reno Flake (Patrick Carroll) - the racist, raging instigators of the twisted sortie.

Rife with false notes and speechifying, Redacted wants to be a condemnation of how news in wartime is processed and doctored for the American public. Instead, DePalma's movie offers its own doctoring and processing, without delivering an ounce of real humanity - good or bad - in the bargain. - Steven Rea