The New York Times describes HBO’s latest movie, Strip Search, as — are you ready? — “an intensely earnest, painfully wrongheaded film” that “tries to sound an alarm about the erosion of civil liberties under the Patriot Act by likening the detention of a Muslim immigrant in the United States to that of an American student in China.”
I really can’t think of a dumber plot for a movie. Based on what I know, I’ll take being detained in America any day, Patriot Act or not.
The problem is not just that this kind of melodramatic moral equivalency is silly and specious. (Dissent, terrorism — what’s the difference, really?) The most tendentious point in “Strip Search” is Glenn Close. As a federal investigator intent on wringing a confession from the Muslim suspect, the slithering star of “Fatal Attraction” is a hundred times more menacing and scary than any bullying Chinese military interrogator. One glimpse of Ms. Close in action (“But who am I, just a lowly cog in a rusting wheel,” she whispers silkily, “ignored, unappreciated”), and viewers can only conclude that even without air-conditioning or habeas corpus, a suspect is much better off in Communist China.
I wish I had HBO, because the movie sounds like an unintentional hoot.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.