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 ... .


Marcos said...

As I interpreted the dialogue, he's not a Wayne employee - he's a lawyer in the firm employed by Wayne, probably on retainer for them, and was responsible for the legal aspects of their big finance deal. Which is how he came to be checking things out in Wayne finance land.

Anonymous said...

I have a weird (and frankly impossible) Theory that he is the Riddler. After all, the whole genius stifled by his corporation (and often Waynecorp) has been a common origin for the Riddler since at least the 90's. Not to mention that he's almost always reffered to as Mr. Reese, except when the Joker exposed him and put out the hit.

Mr. Reese

Like I said. Blind speculation. But it's fun!

Anonymous said...

As a federal criminal practitioner, I had problems with the invocation of RICO in the movie. Simply put, only the Feds can use RICO. Harvey was a D.A., not a fed. The stuff about one person being on the hook for all co-conspirator's crimes? That was absolutely correct. I had a judge disagree with me on that point earlier this year. I wonder if he realizes how wrong he was when he watches the movie. (This movie is so ubiquitous that I have to assume even federal jduges will end up watching it.)

Scipio said...

A good point, A, and one that I missed because I live in DC, where we don't have a D.A., but a fed instead.

I suppose we should just assume that the international nature of some of the transactions results in a joint prosecution with the DOJ. Um. Yeah. Sure. That sounds close enough.

CookieMafia said...

The guy who played Reese is an alumni to the high school I'm going to!!!

It's a magnet school for the arts!!!

He was a Theatre Major I think!!!

Anonymous said...

"he's a lawyer in the firm employed by Wayne"

Accountant. You can tell by the poor posture and the weasely demeaner, plus he was talking about the financial statements, which is what boards of directors hire accountants to look at.