Watching Battle in Seattle is like being jabbed in the belly with a police baton, and not in a good way. Written and directed rather ambitiously by the actor Stuart Townsend, who has never written or directed anything before, it uses fictional characters to tell a true story but gives us no reason to care about the people, their lives, or their political causes. The riots that occurred at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999 may well have been historically significant -- but you wouldn't know it from watching Battle in Seattle, which insists on telling us how important the issues are rather than showing us.

Townsend gives a cursory explanation of what the WTO is and tells us that many oppose it for its lax policies on human rights and labor standards. The details aren't important to him, though. He seems to take it as a given that we already dislike the WTO, even though most viewers' response to WTO is "WTF?" It's a massive, complicated international organization that deals with stodgy, unsexy issues like trade and commerce, and I guarantee the vast majority of the audience isn't nearly as interested in it as Townsend is. And if the point is that we should be interested in it, he fails to explain why.