For his first stint in the director’s chair, topical tummeler Jon Stewart brings a lightweight TV sensibility to journalist Maziar Bahari’s autobiographical tale of being held prisoner by the Iranian government for 118 days. A winsomely progressive member of the news media (Gael García Bernal), who uses his camera to expose the truth, becomes embroiled in a post-election backlash. He’s incarcerated without charge and run through the torture mill at the hands of a humorless and culturally deprived extreme right reactionary group. For all the self-serving good it does, they might just as well have titled it Jon Stewart’s The Pianist. Stewart tamps down the yuks for two-thirds of the picture, eventually caving in with a clumsily conceived eleventh hour interrogation session that reads like a bad phone sex transcript. When it comes to style, satire, and scathing assaults against the Republican right, Saw and (almost) any of its sequels outclass this softcore torture porn. (2014) — Scott Marks
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