In the pulpy but effective “Imperium,” Daniel Radcliffe plays Nate Foster, an FBI agent who goes undercover inside domestic terrorist organizations bent on getting “America back” from Jews, African-Americans, and others deemed insufficiently white. Radcliffe has done an admirable job over the past few years of shucking off his Harry Potter vibe, none more so than here. (Playing a skinhead, he also shucks off his hair for this film.) Radcliffe’s performance is edgy as befitting a character who is always on the verge of being found out.
Posing as an Iraq War veteran who has become furiously disillusioned with what America has become, Nate is a nimble dissimulator, able to concoct a lifesaving cover story on a moment’s notice. It’s not only his own skin he saves: In one especially scary moment, he restrains a pair of “white power” goons from attacking an interracial couple by setting off a store alarm. (His excuse is that he didn’t want them to be captured by the store’s surveillance cameras.)
Directed and written by Daniel Ragussis and drawn from a story by Michael German, upon whom Nate is partially based, “Imperium” is a reminder that not all the terrorists in the US are imports. The homegrown examples in this film, who often are at tactical odds with each other, are especially frightening because, on the surface, some of them seem like typical all-American suburban types. The most interesting character in “Imperium” is not even Nate. It’s Gerry Conway (Sam Trammell), a seemingly normal family man who reads the great philosophers and loves the music of Brahms and Tchaikovsky, even making an exception for the recordings of Jewish maestro Leonard Bernstein. Terrorists come in all flavors. Grade: B (Rated R for language throughout.)