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Documentary 'The New Radical' perilously withholds judgment

Documentary 'The New Radical' perilously withholds judgment
Cody Wilson, left, and Amir Taaki in the documentary "The New Radical." (Christopher Messina / The Orchard)

Documentarian Adam Bhala Lough tackles the intersection of digital rights and the far right in his provocative, problematic film "The New Radical." Lough sets his sights on Cody Wilson, the libertarian provocateur fighting for his constitutional right to provide diagrams of 3-D printed guns on the internet, in what he declares "the Wikileaks for guns."

One's tolerance for this film may depend on your tolerance for the self-serious declarations of the most annoying and pretentious guy in an undergrad philosophy class, an archetype that Wilson epitomizes. He's a walking, talking devil's advocate. But Wilson finds libertarian allies, specifically a British hacker named Amir Taaki working on Bitcoin, and the two collaborate on an online payment system called Dark Wallet, which is essentially money laundering.

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Despite the controversial material, Lough resists guiding the viewer to a clear thesis — you're never quite sure if the film is lionizing or demonizing these men, which is a specific choice on his part, but if you have to wonder what the stance is, the film isn't doing its job.

What's clear is that Wilson loves nothing more than his ideals about freedom of speech, and it seems that guns just happen to be the symbol with which he expresses those ideals.

Tough to take from the start, "The New Radical" becomes increasingly sickening as we watch Wilson and Taaki become radicalized. With such a hands-off approach, this film offers judgment-free access to these discourses. Ultimately, it feels irresponsible to remain unwilling to take a stand on this extreme abstract rhetoric in support of an all too real and immediate threat.

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‘The New Radical’

Not rated.

Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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