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'THE SIEGE' -- THOUGHT-PROVOKING, BUT INCONSISTENT

Denzel Washington. Bruce Willis. Annette Bening. And lots of explosions. The action flick "The Siege" can be summed up in these four sentences, but because this is supposed to be a full-length movie review, I'd better tell you a little more.

"The Siege" opens with a confusing desert scene in which a lot of people are killed with semi-automatics. The action then jumps to a bunch of FBI guys in suits in a New York City office building yelling things like "Get me the stats on Farini!" Racing away to a scene somewhere, Washington, an FBI negotiator, and his faithful Arab-American partner Frank Hadat (Tony Shalhoub) meet up with a mysterious Annette Bening, whom they promptly arrest.

All of a sudden, a "situation" develops, and off go Washington, Shalhoub and Bening. The situation turns out to be a bomb on a bus (shades of "Speed"?) and Washington offers himself in exchange for the hostages. Unfortunately, his ploy fails and the bus is blown up. More casualties follow as the Arab-American terrorists grow increasingly desperate. The president is forced to declare martial law in New York, and the city is turned over to Gen. Devereaux (Willis).

The problem with this movie is that I just couldn't forget that the people on screen were Denzel, Bruce and Annette. I couldn't see them as the characters they were supposed to be. Also, I knew that Arab-Americans were protesting the film's release because of its depiction of Arab New Yorkers being rounded up, Nazi-style, in an attempt to root out the terrorists.

While scenes like this were highly disturbing, it was my impression that the film's director was against that kind of thing. The message seemed to be that if we impose martial law on an American city, we risk succumbing to the madness of a power-hungry general. If we turn the U.S. Army against American citizens, we risk depriving those citizens of the civil liberties that this country is supposed to stand for.

The movie was interesting, though fraught with inconsistencies. Willis is initially strongly opposed to the idea of martial law. A few scenes later, he is imposing strict curfews and throwing Brooklyn teens in prison-stadiums. Willis' character is proof that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It made me queasy (watching the Army round up any group of people will do that to you), and it was frightening. But it raised an important question, and I'm a fan of Denzel. That's enough for me.

Raina Lipsitz is a junior at City Honors High School.

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