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‘Battle’ would’ve done better as documentary

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BATTLE IN SEATTLE — ** — Martin Henderson, Michelle Rodriguez, Ray Liotta; rated R (violence, profanity, drugs, vulgarity, brief sex, slurs, brief gore)

"Battle in Seattle" features some TV news footage of — and other imagery from — the November 1999 World Trade Organization rioting in Washington.

But all that does is make you wonder why those who were involved in this project chose to make a feature film rather than a documentary.

The real-life portions are by far the best part of this ensemble drama, which tells fictionalized versions of stories of various protesters and city officials who were caught up in the sometimes-deadly rioting.

That includes embattled Seattle Mayor Jim Tobin, played by Ray Liotta. He's shown here trying to appease the protest groups as well as provide an inviting atmosphere for the WTO delegates.

Seattle's police chief and other city officials have assured him that they're prepared for any contingency. However, a protester named Jay (Martin Henderson) has other plans.

While Jay claims to have peaceful intentions, he's suffered a family tragedy due to WTO policies and appears to have revenge motives. But the resulting rioting and chaos has deadly consequences for some Seattle residents — including a riot cop (Woody Harrelson) and his pregnant wife (Charlize Theron).

Actor-turned-filmmaker Stuart Townsend would have been better off keeping things on a more modest scale. There are just too many characters here.

Probably the film's least-interesting bit is the romance between Henderson and Michelle Rodriguez's characters. It's an unnecessary, Hollywood cliche — and besides, we're not that enamored with these two would-be lovers.

Also, the supposed "integration" of the news footage and the scene re-creations isn't done very well.

"Battle in Seattle" is rated R and features strong violent imagery (riot suppression, including beatings, violence against women), some strong sexual language (profanity, slang and suggestive talk), drug content and references (tear gas and chemicals), a brief sex scene (mostly implied), derogatory language and slurs, brief gore. Running time: 99 minutes.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com