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American Traitor Review: Al Pacino Slums in Terrible Axis Sally Movie

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Review: “American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally” doesn’t just feel like a cheap tax shelter — it looks like it was actually shot in one.

It’s not a critic’s place to say (or to know) if “American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally” only exists because producer and star Meadow Williams — eager to jumpstart an unremarkable career that might have reached its high point with a small part in the Mel Gibson Hulu movie “Boss Level” — used some of the $800 million fortune she controversially inherited from her much older and very dead vitamin tycoon husband to buy herself a starring role in a biopic so chintzy that it seems like even Al “I’ll do literally anything as long as my hair gets to look like a dead bird” Pacino had to get Bowfingered into being in it.

All a critic can say is that no other explanation would seem to account for the unnatural lifelessness of this film about the first woman ever convicted for treason against the United States. No other explanation would account for why “Twin Falls Idaho” director Michael Polish — a compellingly eccentric figure on the indie scene before he pivoted to faith-based slop and the kind of Mel Gibson movies that are only sold in gas stations — would choose an actress with exactly one facial expression to play the lead role. No other explanation would account for why “American Traitor” looks so flimsy that even the courtroom where it takes place seems like a Zoom background; Pacino has made a lot of movies that feel like glorified tax shelters, but this is the first that appears to have actually been shot in one.

Perhaps — and remember, this is not a legally binding presumption — Meadows related to the story of an “unfairly” vilified blonde actress whose heart was in the right place despite how things might have looked from the outside. The details are spotty and the facts are loose, but when “American Traitor” first introduces Mildred Gillars (Williams) she appears to be a willing participant in the Nazi propaganda machine. The year is 1941 (you can tell because a title card says “1941”), and Hitler is still trying to dissuade America from getting involved in his plot to overthrow Europe. Gillars’ job is to get on the radio, speak into the microphone with a voice so breathy that it could blow Marilyn Monroe’s dress up, and demoralize the soldier boys back home into staying there. “What chance do you have?” she coos over the air like a genocidal Betty Boop as Joseph Goebbels himself (Thomas Kretschmann) gets hot and bothered in the studio behind her.



At that point, of course, Goebbels’ name didn’t come attached with the same historical weight that it does today (nor was he actually there for the “Axis Sally” broadcasts in real life), and it’s plausible enough that Gillars either didn’t understand the role that she was playing or didn’t know how to extricate herself from it without being killed. Maybe she was a white supremacist, or maybe she was just a girl from Ohio who had the misfortune of falling in love with a German who said that he wouldn’t marry her if she moved back home. Williams’ blank performance certainly doesn’t shed any light on the truth — dressed for a funeral and slathered with a thick black lip, the actress spends the entire movie tilting her head in a frozen half-smile that reduces Gillars to nothing more than a life-sized Klaus Barbie Doll — and the screenplay that Polish, Darryl Hicks, and Vance Owen have adapted from William E. Owen’s book “Axis Sally Confidential” is pasted together with laughably fake newspaper headlines that stamp out any hope for nuance. Even the shortcuts in this movie have their own shortcuts.

But anyone hoping for an ethically ambiguous portrait of life during wartime is sure to be disappointed by the film’s ultra-didactic parallel storyline set during Gillars’ Washington, DC trial circa 1948. Enter: Pacino as showboat celebrity defense lawyer James Laughlin, and Swen Temmel as Billy Owen, the naïve young co-counsel who Laughlin hires because Temmel is Williams’ boyfriend and he needed to play someone in this thing. Owen was a real person, as the end credits make a point of proving to us, but his role in this movie is so poorly established that he feels almost as fictitious as the awful scene where Goebbels rapes Gillars into realizing that she’s on the wrong side of history — a scene that naturally takes place in the radio studio, because Puerto Rico is a rather limiting place to shoot a movie set in Nazi Germany.

The decision to cross-cut between the two timelines stultifies any sort of narrative momentum or dramatic coherence as “American Traitor” works overtime to convince us that Gillars was a victim of the same propaganda that she peddled over the airwaves. Points are made about how people are more easily manipulated when they think they’re operating under their own free will, but not even the shrewdest lines of dialogue are able to make an impression when the “trial of the century” around them seems like it’s taking place at the DMV.

The money required to fake a convincing sense of national interest seems to have been spent on Pacino, whose loud-quiet-loud schtick is as perfect for courtroom dramas as it is for Pixies songs (“you don’t strike me as a man who does charity” Gillars says to Laughlin in a line that resonates with unintended meaning). The guy might be on auto-pilot for most of the movie, but he closes things out with the kind of barnstorming monologue that you typically have to pay Broadway ticket prices to hear Pacino deliver; it’s hard to remember what he says in it, but he says it with such hair-shaking fervor that it sells you on the raw power of the spoken word better than Axis Sally ever does. Whatever Williams spent on the front-row seat she may or may not have bought herself here, we can only hope it was more worth it for her than it will be for anyone else.

Grade: D-

“American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally” is now playing in select theaters and on VOD from Vertical Entertainment.

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Woman passenger from UK tests Covid positive at Hyderabad airport

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Hyderabad: A 35-year-old international passenger who reached the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport here on Wednesday has tested positive for Covid-19 after undergoing an RT-PCR test at the airport itself. The woman passenger had traveled from the United Kingdom, which has been categorised as an ‘At Risk Country’. 

The passenger has been admitted to the Telangana Institute of Medical Sciences (TIMS) and samples were collected and sent for genetic sequencing. Officials said she did not have any symptoms and that her health condition was being monitored closely. 

According to officials, the woman hails from Rangareddy district and was on a visit to UK from Hyderabad. Though her close relatives tested negative, their health condition is also being monitored. 


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Revealed: how Sidney Powell could be disbarred for lying in court for Trump | US elections 2020

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Sidney Powell, the former lawyer for Donald Trump who filed lawsuits across America for the former president, hoping to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, has on several occasions represented to federal courts that people were co-counsel or plaintiffs in her cases without seeking their permission to do so, the Guardian has learned.

Some of these individuals say that they only found out that Powell had named them once the cases were already filed.

During this same period of time, Powell also named several other lawyers – with their permission in those instances – as co-counsel in her election-related cases, despite the fact that they played virtually no role whatsoever in bringing or litigating those cases.

Both Powell’s naming of other people as plaintiffs or co-counsel without their consent and representing that other attorneys were central to her cases when, in fact, their roles were nominal or nonexistent, constitute serious potential violations of the American Bar Association model rules for professional conduct, top legal ethicists told the Guardian.

Powell’s misrepresentations to the courts in those particular instances often aided fundraising for her nonprofit, Defending the Republic. Powell had told prospective donors that the attorneys were integral members of an “elite strike force” who had played outsized roles in her cases – when in fact they were barely involved if at all.

A couple poses for a photo in front of a Trump campaign bus at a rally in Alpharetta, Georgia, on 2 December 2020.
A couple poses for a photo in front of a Trump campaign bus at a rally in Alpharetta, Georgia, on 2 December 2020. Photograph: Nathan Posner/REX/Shutterstock

Powell did not respond to multiple requests for comment via phone, email, and over social media.

The State Bar of Texas is already investigating Powell for making other allegedly false and misleading statements to federal courts by propagating increasingly implausible conspiracy theories to federal courts that Joe Biden’s election as president of the United States was illegitimate.

The Texas bar held its first closed-door hearing regarding the allegations about Powell on 4 November. Investigations by state bar associations are ordinarily conducted behind closed doors and thus largely opaque to the public.

A federal grand jury has also been separately investigating Powell, Defending the Republic, as well as a political action committee that goes by the same name, for fundraising fraud, according to records reviewed by the Guardian.

Among those who have alleged that Powell falsely named them as co-counsel is attorney Linn Wood, who brought and litigated with Powell many of her lawsuits attempting to overturn the results of the election with her, including in the hotly contested state of Michigan.

The Michigan case was a futile attempt by Powell to erase Joe Biden’s victory in that state and name Trump as the winner. On 25 August, federal district court Judge Linda Parker, of Michigan, sanctioned Powell and nine other attorneys who worked with her for having engaged in “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process” in bringing the case in the first place. Powell’s claims of election fraud, Parker asserted, had no basis in law and were solely based on “speculation, conjecture, and unwarranted suspicion”.

Parker further concluded that the conduct of Powell, Wood, and the eight other attorneys who they worked with, warranted a “referral for investigation and possible suspension or disbarment to the appropriate disciplinary authority for each state … in which each attorney is admitted”.

Wood told the court in the Michigan case that Powell had wrongly named him as one of her co-counsel in the Michigan case. During a hearing in the case to determine whether to sanction Wood, his defense largely rested on his claim that he had not been involved in the case at all. Powell, Wood told the court, had put his name on the lawsuit without her even telling him.

A man holds a sign reading "The dead cannot vote" at a rally in Alpharetta, Georgia.
Trump supporters attend a rally in Alpharetta, Georgia, where Sidney Powell spoke on efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Photograph: Nathan Posner/REX/Shutterstock

Wood said: “I do not specifically recall being asked about the Michigan complaint … In this case obviously my name was included. My experience or my skills apparently were never needed, so I didn’t have any involvement with it.”

Wood’s attorney, Paul Stablein, was also categorical in asserting that his client had nothing to do with the case, telling the Guardian in an interview: “He didn’t draft the complaint. He didn’t sign it. He did not authorize anyone to put his name on it.”

Powell has denied she would have ever named Wood as a co-counsel without Wood’s permission.

But other people have since come forward to say that Powell has said that they were named as plaintiffs or lawyers in her election-related cases without their permission.

In a Wisconsin voting case, a former Republican candidate for Congress, Derrick Van Orden, said he only learned after the fact that he had been named as a plaintiff in one of Powell’s cases.

“I learned through social media today that my name was included in a lawsuit without my permission,” Van Orden said in a statement he posted on Twitter, “To be clear, I am not involved in the lawsuit seeking to overturn the election in Wisconsin.”

Jason Shepherd, the Republican chairman of Georgia’s Cobb county, was similarly listed as a plaintiff in a Georgia election case without his approval.

In a 26 November 2020 statement, Shepherd said he had been talking to an associate of Powell’s prior to the case’s filing about the “Cobb GOP being a plaintiff” but said he first “needed more information to at least make sure the executive officers were in agreeing to us being a party in the suit”. The Cobb County Republican party later agreed to remain plaintiffs in the case instead of withdrawing.

Leslie Levin, a professor at the University of Connecticut Law School, said in an interview: “Misrepresentations to the court are very serious because lawyers are officers of the court. Bringing a lawsuit in someone’s name when they haven’t consented to being a party is a very serious misrepresentation and one for which a lawyer should expect to face serious discipline.”

Nora Freeman Engstrom, a law professor at Stanford University, says that Powell’s actions appear to violate Rule 3.3 of the ABA’s model rules of professional misconduct which hold that “a lawyer shall not knowingly … make a false statement of fact of law to a tribunal”.

Since election day last year, federal and state courts have dismissed more than 60 lawsuits alleging electoral fraud and irregularities by Powell, and other Trump allies.

Shortly after the election, Trump named Powell as a senior member of an “elite strike force” who would prove that Joe Biden only won the 2020 presidential race because the election was stolen from him. But Trump refused to pay her for her services. To remedy this, Powell set up a new nonprofit called Defending the Republic; its stated purpose is to “protect the integrity of elections in the United States”.

As a nonprofit, the group is allowed to raise unlimited amounts of “dark money” and donors are legally protected from the ordinary requirements to disclose their identities to the public. Powell warned supporters that for her to succeed, “millions of dollars must be raised”.

Echoing Trump’s rhetoric, Powell told prospective donors that Defending the Republic had a vast team of experienced litigators.

Sidney Powell speaks at a press conference on election results in Alpharetta, Georgia.
Sidney Powell speaks at a press conference on election results in Alpharetta, Georgia. Photograph: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

Among the attorneys who Powell said made up this “taskforce” were Emily Newman, who had served Trump as the White House liaison to the Department of Health and Human Services and as a senior official with the Department of Homeland Security. Newman had been a founding board member of Defending the Republic.

But facing sanctions in the Michigan case, some of the attorneys attempted to distance themselves from having played much of a meaningful role in her litigation.

Newman’s attorney told Parker, the judge, that Newman had “not played a role in the drafting of the complaint … My client was a contract lawyer working from home who spent maybe five hours on this matter. She really wasn’t involved … Her role was de minimis.”

To have standing to file her Michigan case, Powell was initially unable to find a local attorney to be co-counsel on her case but eventually attorney Gregory Rohl agreed to help out.

But when Rohl was sanctioned by Parker and referred to the Michigan attorney disciplinary board for further investigation, his defense was that he, too, was barely involved in the case. He claimed that he only received a copy of “the already prepared” 830-page initial complaint at the last minute, reviewed it for “well over an hour”, while then “making no additions, decisions or corrections” to the original.

As with Newman, Parker, found that Rohl violated ethics rules by making little, if any, effort to verify the facts of the claims in Powell’s filings.

In sanctioning Rohl, the judge wrote that “the court finds it exceedingly difficult to believe that Rohl read an 830-page complaint in just ‘well over an hour’ on the day he filed it. So, Rohl’s argument in and of itself reveals sanctionable conduct.”

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Govt to introduce important Bill, Covid situation likely to be discussed

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The government on Thursday will table ‘The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (Amendment) Bill 2021’ in the Lok Sabha. A discussion on Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and its various related aspects is also likely to take place in the lower House.


Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya will move the ‘The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (Amendment) Bill’ in the Lok Sabha to amend the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research Act, 1998.





Under rule 193, a discussion on Covid-19 pandemic and various aspects related to it will likely take place. According to sources, the members may also raise their concern and ask for the government’s preparedness for the new Omicron variant. Under Rule 193, members can seek details about the new Covid variant. “Short duration discussion is likely to be held in the Lok Sabha on the Covid and its various aspects, including new Omicron variant,” sources said.


Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Prahlad Singh Patel, General V.K. Singh, Krishan Pal, Bhanu Pratap Verma, Rameshwar Teli and Kaushal Kishore will lay papers on the table. Reports and action reports of different standing committees will also be laid in the day.


The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Amendment) Bill 2021 (ART) by voice vote as the amendments moved by the DMK MP N.K. Prem Chandran, Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy and Shiv Sena MP Vinayak Raut were negated. The ART Bill seeks to regulate fertility clinics. All such clinics will have to be registered under the National Registry of Banks and Clinics of India.


The opposition is likely to continue to raise its voices on price rise, unemployment and extended jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) in some states. The opposition parties are also demanding a law guaranteeing the minimum support price (MSP).

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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