On one end of the scale, there are visionaries like labor martyr Joe Hill, who organized the copper mines of yesteryear, whose story was in one case told in the sweet mezzo voice of Joan Baez. On the other, we have James Riddle Hoffa, whose violent rise to power and "the hand is quicker than the eye" legerdemain with the Teamsters' pension fund tempt one to conclude that he was little else but a common thug. Jack Nicholson's talent for playing s.o.b.'s throughout his career makes him a natural for the title role. There are such contrasts and paradoxes whenever the issue of labor unions is addressed. My father worked for three decades during the previous century for a major industry that to this day is still a non-union shop. The last I knew, to engage in union-oriented activities there could get you fired. My dad retains to this day a belief that unions do nothing but destroy any potential rapport between a company and its employees. Indeed, unionism is to him detrimental to the free enterprise system. My own workplace is a union shop, though, and my chapter's officers proudly say that they only vote for political candidates approved by our union. I suppose that my tendency to vote for candidates based on their stand on other issues besides the union issue does not speak well of my "loyalty" to my union--hell, my church doesn't tell me who to vote for. Throughout this story, Hoffa does a lot of reprehensible things in the name of the "working man"--after all, Machiavelli did say that the end justifies the means. There's a lot of sense to the argument that, if not for labor unions, working conditions wouldn't be much different today than those depicted in a Dickens novel. But one thing I have learned from life is that, when it comes to extremes, any one of them is as bad as any other. I suppose that if this film carries no other message, it's a pretty decent lesson in the fact that a zealot for any cause is not necessarily a hero.