Aaron Russo takes a page from Michael Moore's play book with the
nonfiction film

    Russo has enjoyed a long and successful career in show business.
Starting off in the 1960s, he was a promoter of rock bands and concert tours.
For most of the 70s, he managed then-girlfriend Bette Midler's career,
including producing her award-winning stage revue
as well as her movie debut, THE ROSE. He later produced
movies as varied as
TRADING PLACES and TEACHERS. In the 90s, though,
Russo entered politics, running unsuccessfully for governor of Nevada and
campaigning for the US Presidency as the 2004 Libertarian Party's candidate,
although he failed to make the final ballot.

    So perhaps it would only be natural for Russo to mix his two interests
in this nonfiction movie. At the start of the film, he sets out to investigate
the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and to uncover the exact statute that
requires American citizens to pay income tax. (Hint: Russo isn't able
to accomplish this.) So, the first part of the film raises some intriguing points
about the legality of the income tax. Russo often turns to Supreme Court
rulings on the matter, some of which are strangely dismissed by the one
former IRS Commissioner interviewed. He also raises an intriguing point
that the 16th Amendment, passed by Congress in 1909 was not legally
ratified by the required number of states to become law. That's an interesting
topic but it gets lost in the rhetoric.

    While sticking to the issue of the income tax, Russo is on somewhat
solid ground. But in the second half of the film, he veers off to take on the
creation of the Federal Reserve, voter fraud, the national identity card and
radio frequency identification (RIFD) technology. While it is clear that there
are already aspects of Big Brother and too much government interference in
American lives, Russo's arguments become so broad as to lose their power
and influence. He clearly means well and has an agenda to wake up what he
sees as a complacent society that is handing over its freedom without a
second thought. Like Michael Moore, he relies on slogans, animation and
other tricks to sell his message. But Russo isn't on par with Moore's capacity
for propaganda, although he tries valiantly.

    AMERICA: FROM FREEDOM TO FASCISM is obviously well intentioned
but its arguments are too scattershot to really hit their marks. Since this is
billed as Volume One, perhaps in Volume Two, the filmmaker will be able
to focus on an issue and truly explore it.

Rating:                C
Running time:      95 mins.
MPAA Rating:       NONE

                         Viewed at Magno Review One
Aaron Russo's
"America: Freedom to Fascism"
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.