(director/writer: Emilio Estevez; cinematographer: Juan Miguel Azpiroz; editors: Richard Chew, Yang-Hua Hu; music: Tyler Bates, Joanne Higginbottom; cast: Alec Baldwin (Detective Bill Ramstead), Emilio Estevez (Stuart Goodson), Jena Malone (Myra), Taylor Schilling (Angela), Christian Slater (Josh Davis), Che “Rhymefest” Smith, Gabrielle Union (Rebecca Parks), Jacob Vargas, Michael K. Williams (Jackson), Jeffrey Wright (Anderson), Ki Hong Lee (Chip), Patrick Hume (Caesar), Richard T. Jones (Chief Edwards), Spencer Garrett (John Harper), Michael Douglas Hall (Smutts), Bryant Bentley (Cactus Ray), Nik Pajic (‘Angry’ Mike), Jared Earland (Barnes); Runtime: 122; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Lisa Niedenthal, Emilio Estevez, Alex Lebovici, Steve Ponce; Universal Pictures; 2018)

Estevez might be a passable actor but is not a passable director.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An ineffective crowd-pleasing look at helping the homeless by writer/director/star Emilio Estevez (“Bobby”/”Rated X”). The problem is that Estevez might be a passable actor but is not a passable director. After honestly presenting the overwhelming problems the homeless people face, Estevez leaves this serious discussion to present instead an entertaining (if you can call it that) but phony look at how cute the homeless people can be (as only bad Hollywood films do when afraid to be too real and possibly ruin the box-office). That leaves us with a predictable feel-good film that doesn’t deliver on its message to find worthy ways to help the long-suffering subjects who need our help the most. At the main branch of the Cincinnati public library the homeless stay there all day in winter to keep warm and to use the toilets and internet services. This puts a strain on the people who work there and the public that uses the facility as a library. The main action takes place when an Arctic blast is predicted and the homeless refuse to leave at night since all the shelters are filled. They are joined in their protest by the sympathetic, quiet librarian Stuart Goodson (Emilio Estevez), who becomes their spokesman. What follows is the media falsely calling it a dangerous hostage situation, which antagonizes a large percent of the public, and the police add to the negativity by being called in to put the homeless back on the frigid streets. As the challenged film tries to entertain us with its curious version of the protest and show us how friendly the vulnerable homeless can be, it never gets around to asking the most pertinent question: of how can a civilized society provide adequate services for the homeless (like with enough shelters or placement in mental institutions for those who need such care) so that the public library is not misused and the citizens who want to study there or borrow books can do so in peace. And, also, that the homeless should have a place where those professionals in the health and social fields can look after them and give them the care they deserve. The film left me pissed that it was so misguided by its Hollywood agenda of easy solutions that it becomes all about entertaining us by using the homeless as pawns. Anyhow, I can’t see this soppy film changing too many opinions about the homeless they didn’t have before. It fails to deliver its intended well-meaning message about helping the homeless in a credible way since its main thrust about the homeless is only an afterthought. The way I see it, if you want to help these unfortunates, and you should, you should fight to get them the services they desperately need and not coddle them with false pity–the way this film does.

The Public Poster