Review for One Rogue Reporter
Aww. I feel really bad about this. I know it’s probably damn near impossible to get finance for a project like this and it takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make something like this happen. I really wanted to like this but … for the most part I didn't Anyone taking a pop at the injustices of a tabloid press running rough-shod over laws, moral boundaries and innocent people’s lives deserves attention. But when that person in an ex-tabloid reporter with a pretty bad record himself and who ends up using the self-same grimy approach to his critique as those he accuses, it all smacks slightly of self-aggrandizing hypocrisy.
OK – I concede that Richard Peppiatt is amusing enough in a sarcy, cheeky-chappy kind of a way (his joke about his own finances made me laugh aloud). His aggressive ‘rogue traders’ meets Michael Moore approach to his targets is fairly admirable too but the over-riding feeling I got watching this was one of disappointed queasiness.
The whole thing started badly for me. I was expecting a feature film ‘starring’ Steve Coogan and Hugh Grant. After all, that’s what the posters suggested. But what you get is a fairly average, low-production value documentary which would look fine on Channel 5 but which simply must have disappointed attendees on its very limited cinema-run. Oh – and the ‘starring’ boast amounted to a couple of talking head interviews with justifiably angry celebrities. So the whole thing starts, not with a lie but, in true tabloid tradition, a half-truth. So, having started, perhaps unfairly, with a gripe, I’ll now try to be a bit fairer minded.
There is no doubt that Rich Peppiatt has a point. It just rankles that he is the one making it. Peppiatt’s was once a Daily Star journalist who boasts here of the absurdity of some of his stories with laddish relish. He dressed up as a transvestite for one story (clearly not a real one) as well as dressing for a day in a full Burkah to get some fuel for some paper-selling anti-Muslim nonsense. But then he claims it all got too much and he very publicly left the paper with a resignation rant aimed at Rupert Murdoch which went viral and which helped to catapult the now-unemployed hack into public consciousness. As a result, and with a new career to find, he turned to stand-up comedy as well as ‘lecture tours’ to capitalise on his righteous release. And to be fair, as a stand-up comic, if the clips here are anything to go by, he’s more than a cut above average.
Together with jobbing producer/director Tom Jenkinson, he’s decided to try and capitalise on the whole thing with a Michael Moore style documentary feature. Fair enough – but this is no ‘Bowling for Columbine’ or anything close.
It’s a dripping satire on the industry that he was once a part of, using a rag-bag mix of (too much) stock footage of old movies (we got the point that these ideas have been around a while with the first clip), presenting to camera, voice-over, Peppiatt in action on the streets, interviews with press victims, news footage and hidden camera stuff.
Peppiatt dresses up as a clichéd hack in a raincoat and trilby with a ludicrous ‘press’ card stuck in its ribbon and then goes on the attack, not using the gentle mid-west intelligence of Michael Moore, but rather playing to type by plastering headlines all over the Range Rover of an editor, and planting a dildo on the doorstep of the Daily Mail’s red-faced dictator, Paul Dacre. He also sets up a bogus TV interview with former Sun Editor, Kelvin MacKensie, who was responsible for some of the more offensive Hilsborough disaster coverage. Quoting from private texts between MacKenzie and a woman, it takes a while for his ruse to be rumbled and this would be terribly amusing were it not for the fact that Peppiatt is using the same underhand techniques he is criticising to get the results he wants. Does the former justify the latter? The jury’s out on that for me.
I particularly balked at the inclusion of some humiliating footage of (the arguably despicable and now jailed) reporter Neville Thurlbeck who, having used underhand techniques to supposedly ‘expose’ the private lives of many, had the table turned when one of his victims released footage of him at their naturist massage. Showing him stark-bollock naked seemed as low a stunt as those perpetrated by the man himself. Again – do two wrongs make a right? Peppaitt never reflects on this, rather just returning to type again and again.
The interviews are good to see. Many of the wronged (particularly from the hacking scandal) are featured here and Steve Coogan and Hugh Grant both come across as intelligent but very angry men.
John Prescott is great fun, as are the comments from Ray Greenslade Owen Jones and Joan Smith. I also liked the inclusion of the less likely – media lawyer Charlotte Harris offering a legal view and philosopher A.C. Grayling giving a broader sociological analysis.
The ‘film’ moves along at a fair pace and there’s no doubting that it has a certain stylistic rhythm – arguably a well written piece but very averagely cobbled together by the post-production team. I think it’s inevitable that we will see more of Peppiatt for good or ill.
I understand it’s being released on the 8th December 2014 on a number of digital formats. I’m unsure where you can access those but, unless this is a particularly interesting topic for you (and God knows the hacking scandal has already eaten up some serious airtime) then I’d give it a miss. I kind of wish I had.