The material comes from Johann Hari’s “Hunt for the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs”. After the documentary “MLK / FBI” and the film “Judas and the Black Messiah” it is now the third film project that shows the infiltration of black leaders by the government.
The film gets off to a stuttering start – and the introduction of a poor frame device with a sedentary vacation interview – before stepping back 10 years and slowly moving the toll of drugs and abuse back into an increasingly gaunt vacation, leading to her death in 1959.
The natural villain in this play would be the agent who exterminates Holiday several times before falling in love with her. The filmmakers haven’t quite figured it out. Why would Holiday allow a federal agent who arrested her twice to get back into her life? “It’s complicated,” she says.
Trevante Rhodes, who was great on “Moonlight,” plays the Infiltrator, a man torn between his job and his race. He and other black agents work in separate areas in the basement, tasked with planting evidence to overthrow black icons for white America. “Have you ever felt weird what we’re doing?” An agent asks Fletcher.
The real bad guy is the leader of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry J. Anslinger (a mustache-swirling Garrett Hedlund), who is a virulent racist and caricaturally unsubtle about it. “This jazz music is the work of the devil. That’s why this holiday woman has to be stopped,” he says.