'Unfair: Exposing the IRS': Film Review

Unfair Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Unfair, LLC

Unfair Still - H 2014

Predictably falls on one side of the political spectrum

Judd Saul's documentary attacks the Internal Revenue Service for its alleged corruption and immorality

Delivering an attack against the Internal Revenue Service is like shooting fish in a barrel. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone, whatever their political affiliation, who has anything good to say about this much-reviled government agency. So it seems a bit of a waste that Judd Saul's documentary Unfair: Exposing the IRS, shown as a one-night event in some 680 screens around the country, should have resorted to such relentless overkill.

Before your angry online comments come pouring in accusing this reviewer of being a godless, unpatriotic communist, please be advised that this is a film review, not a political tract. Any criticisms to follow are meant to address the film on cinematic terms, and in that regard it falls woefully short of being convincing to anyone who isn't already fully aligned with its impassioned message. Devoid of thoughtful analysis or divergent opinions, it's little more than agitprop … which is not to say that many of the films emanating from the other side of the political spectrum are any better.

Featuring syndicated radio talk show host Craig Bergman as its empathetic onscreen interlocutor, the film details endless abuses committed by the agency directed towards ordinary citizens, including veterans, religious groups, parents of adopted children and even an American Legion outpost in Texas that was fined for having the temerity to ask for two dollar donations for the snacks it provided to its guests.

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Beginning with the usual barrage of inflammatory news clips, it naturally spotlights the recent uproar over the IRS' alleged targeted persecution of Tea Party organizations — President Obama is repeatedly seen denouncing it as a "phony scandal" — and the subsequent embarrassing spectacle of its leaders haplessly testifying before Congress that they had somehow managed to lose over two years' worth of relevant emails. Couple that with evidence of the agency's wild overspending, such as video clips of their bizarre comic sketches performed at lavish getaways, and it's certainly hard not to get one's dander up.

But the emotional commentary by the various subjects provides little more than anecdotal evidence, and such comments as the "IRS behaves more like a third-world dictatorship" and references to "absolute tyranny" and "the enemies of God and liberty" add little thoughtfulness to the conversation. By the time one interview subject compares pro-choice positions to Nazi eugenics, you simply have to throw up your hands.

Produced by John Sullivan (2016: Obama's America), the film is most persuasive when it advocates for the elimination of the income tax in favor of a national sales tax, dubbed, in the usual parlance of politico-speak, the "Fair Tax." Unfortunately, the argument is made purely on emotional and moral grounds, rather than, say, having notable economists commenting on the financial benefits.

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Featuring commentary by such usual suspects as Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann and, of course, Grover Norquist, Unfair: Exposing the IRS is not so much an expose as predictable preaching to the choir.

Let the angry comments commence.

Director: Judd Saul
Producers: Craig Berman, John Sullivan
Editor: Beau Batterson

No rating, 83 minutes