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Sicko

The Weinstein Company

Review in a Hurry:  Michael Moore's typical ham-handedness undermines the potency of Sicko, sure. But the documentarian/stuntman showcases the catastrophic effects of our dysfunctional health-care system so acutely that the film serves its purpose: It puts a fire in your belly, and rage in your heart.

The Bigger Picture:  When watching one of Moore's "documentaries," it's easy to confuse good morals with good filmmaking. Moore is a splendid agitator, and there's a lot to be agitated about in Sicko. Moore skillfully captures the naked anguish of sick, scared citizens who desperately try to navigate through the health-insurance labyrinth of red tape, while their health and money rapidly deteriorates.

Sicko starts off strong with a chilling catalog of health-care horrors: footage of an uninsured worker who has to stitch his own wounds to avoid slipping into medical debt; the story of a cancer-ridden single mom who has to choose between prescription medicine and food for dinner; and repentant former health-insurance hacks who confess to being financially rewarded for denying sick people the "costly" coverage they needed in order to save their employers some cash.

This is by far the most compelling aspect of the film because it speaks, if not wails, the undeniable truth that our health-care system is diseased and malignant.

The second half is much weaker. Moore stitches together his own version of the evolution and politics of the American health-care system, and the whole thing eventually unravels into, weirdly, a love letter to Cuban-style health care.

Moore likes his politics to be neat: In one corner there are the nefarious, gray-faced conservatives who endlessly plot the demise of humane society. In the other corner stand the gentle, enlightened progressives who play the martyred heroes.

It's on this polarized landscape where Moore cherry-picks facts, contorts history and avoids the more complicated issues behind our country's health-care woes. So don't expect to learn very much. Regardless of Moore's crude diagnosis, though, there is one sentiment that effectively reverberates throughout the film: We're America, and we can do better.

The 180—a Second Opinion:  Moore wallops the audience with some punishing emotional blows. There are at least 10 different accounts of gut-wrenching stories that practically rip your heart out—and beat you in the face with it. After the first five, though, it might start to feel oppressive.