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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Tropic Thunder draws fire from drug dealers

By Poppius Mcgee

Ben Stiller’s recent comedy “Tropic Thunder” makes jokes at the expense of a wide range of targets. As is inevitable with these types of films in today’s hyper-sensitive society, many of the targets have taken public offense at slights real or imaginary from the irreverent script. The more vocal of these offended groups includes advocates for the mentally disabled, who take issue with Stiller’s Simple Jack character, and veterans of the actual Vietnam War, for whom the gratuitous violence and gore and cheesy war-movie cliches demonstrate improper respect for the men who were subject to the horrors of jungle combat. None of those groups, however, have done anything more than raise a stir in the press. The drug producers of the Golden Triangle, however, now intend to do far more than that.
In the film, Stiller, along with co-stars Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black, are dropped into a real-life violent conflict after the director fails to get the best out of the actors on a traditional movie set. The cast is stalked and eventually attacked by a ruthless group of drug traders in the volatile and lawless Golden Triangle region. Stiller’s character is taken hostage and during the course of his captivity is tortured and eventually forced to reprise his role from “Simple Jack” for the drug farmers and manufacturers’ entertainment.
In the film the drug manufacturers are portrayed, as most “bad guys” in action films, as ruthless, simple and stupid.
Khun Sa, a notorious drug lord who has been exporting heroin to the world market since the 1960s, takes issue with that portrayal. “We are not stupid. We would not be the type of people to be impressed by Simple Jack,” he wrote in a press release seized with a kilo of heroin by DEA officials last week. “And if this director wishes to call us savages, then we will instruct him as to the real meaning of “savage.'”
Stiller, for his part, was unfazed by the threat and said, “Where I come from, drug dealers threatening to break your legs or kill you was an everyday thing. This is like being back in New York on those streets. I’ll just have to ride strapped, is all.”
The idea of those offended by a film threatening violent revenge on its actors and producers is not new. Charlton Heston received death threats from Mexican activists in the wake of his performance as a Mexican detective in the Orson Welles picture “Touch of Evil”, and Jesus reportedly threatened to shank Martin Scorsese over his controversial 1988 film “The Last Temptation Of Christ.”
Although Stiller was not particularly perturbed by Khun Sa’s message, his main co-stars Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. have reportedly increased security at their homes until the danger passes and have hired bodyguards to accompany their entourages. The ability of Khun Sa, beseiged by the Vietnamese military and the subject of an international effort by the DEA, CIA and Interpol to arrest him, to effectively carry out a hit on well-protected actors on the other side of the world is somewhat doubtable, but Downey said he was taking no chances. He told a reporter earlier this week, “They’re always trying to take the black man down.”

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