A pale rehash of Seattle’s globalization clash

"Battle in Seattle" is a docu-style chronicle of the momentus, epic, earth-shattering events that occurred there in 1999.

Um . . . what were they again?

If all you retain is a vague memory of an anarchist throwing a rock at a Starbucks, you can be forgiven. In the intervening years, the momentus events of Seattle have been out-momentussed, so it's easy to be a little foggy on the details.

Protestors assembled to protest a gathering of the World Trade Organization, an outfit that critics regarded as an undemocratic, unaccountable international force bullying third-world countries on behalf of multinational corporations.

Anarchists, activists, labor unions and other aligned groups converged on Seattle to disrupt proceedings, things got out of hand, and you had protesters battling with riot police in clouds of tear gas.

"Battle in Seattle" mixes actual footage and docu-drama ensemble acting in an attempt to create a you-are-there atmosphere. The attempts are unsuccessful. Sorely missing is a feeling of immediacy or urgency, undercut by bad dialogue and eye-rolling coincidence.

Characters mysteriously acquire or discard important traits and motivations - Connie Nielsen plays a blow-dried TV reporter for the "corporate" media who summarily rejects her superficiality and joins the protesters for an on-camera stunt.

Has she suddenly had an epiphany about globalization?

If so, what? And why?

Charlize Theron plays a pregnant women injured in the melee. She refuses to see her police officer husband (Woody Harrelson) again, for reasons that remain murky. The operative reason seems to be script convenience - it gives Harrelson's character an excuse to go medieval.

Larger economic and political themes also feel underdramatized. If this was a major turning point in the public's perception of globalization, "Battle in Seattle" fails to make the case. *


Battle in Seattle

Directed by Stuart Townsend. With Martin Henderson, Ray Liotta, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Rodriguez, Isaach de Bankole, Rade Serbedzija, Charlize Theron, André Benjamin, Connie Nielsen, Channing Tatum. Distributed by Redwood Palms Pictures.

Running time: 1 hours, 38 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for language and some violence).