Sunday, August 03, 2008
The Dark Knight: Coleman Reese
Coleman Reese is the weaselly blackmailing Waynetech employee whose name you probably didn't catch. That's how minor a character he is.
And, yet, in a film that spills over with moral dilemmas, his is perhaps one of the most severe, realistic, and resonant for regular people.
He knows his Big Boss is up to something, and it's something quite big. He decides he wants a cut for being a silent parent in the Batman secret.
It's all well and good to sit on the other side of the screen and label Reese a bad guy. After all, Batman is the good guy, Reese threatens Batman, therefore Reese is a bad guy. But if you found out your boss was Batman, what would you do? Nothing? Start sewing a Robin costume in your own size? Ask for hefty raise and the freedom to never work again?
Like Fox, Reese isn't someone Bruce Wayne chose to bring in on the secret; he just figured it out. Fox, of course, just happens to go from being fired to being the head of Waynetech; not a bad recompense for keeping the secret a secret, is it? Doesn't Reese deserve to be compensated, too?
That's certainly what Reese thinks. He's not really out to stop Batman. He just wants his silence to be part of the blacklined Batman budget that the Wayne business can easily afford. It's blackmail, of course. But, Batman of all people should know that if you break the law (like, by being a vigilante) you make yourself vulnerable.
Foxy Lucius calls the young weasel's bluff. "Dad" doesn't save your ass, he just warns you when something you've done looks like it's going to bite you in the ass. "Hey, Bruce; got another problem for you to deal with over here! Good luck, son."
But then Reese has a moral dilemma. Expose the Batman or keep quiet? What is his responsibility to society? Remember, it's not just a matter of undoing a vigilante; by this point in the action, the Joker has committed to killing someone every hour that Batman's identity remains secret. Technically, by revealing Batman's identity, Reese is saving lives, potentially more than Batman is saving. Isn't that his civic duty? Reese would go from being a blackmailer to a hero; but the result would be that the Joker's terrorism would have succeeded.
Before that happens, however, Bruce Wayne goes to great lengths to save Reese's life. Reese thinks first and foremost of himself, and when he realizes that HE needs Batman to save him as much as everyone else does, he chooses to clam up. He suddenly is reminded that Freedom To (expose Batman or get money for his silence) is always and of necessity secondary to Freedom From (the threat of destruction to himself and society).
Of course, that's the very hub of society's issue with the need to protect itself from crime and terrorism (and a central theme of the movie). They don't want their own freedoms curtailed in the process of protecting them from danger. "How dare Batman take the law into his own hands! How dare I be required to show documents! How dare Batman and/or the government listen in on my cellphone!" And, if the Joker (or another terrorist) kills you or destroys the society that protects you from predation, how much does that really matter?
By the way, did you think that whole scenario with the RICO indictments was just showy fun? Nuh-uh. What's one of the things RICO is most commonly used for by law enforcement and government agencies?
To justify wiretapping.
Yes, the more you think about the Dark Knight, the more it has to say ... .