No one dares gainsay Ralph Nader's rep as a consumer Robin Hood. Since he first came to national prominence in the mid-1960s as the small-fry public interest lawyer who took on General Motors and won, he has become probably the most significant, singularly successful advocate for worker and consumer rights a nd safety in modern American history. You only have to consider his instrumental role in a host of public and environmental protection legislation -- a catalog way too long to detail here, but suffice to note the Clean Water, Clean Air, Freedom of Information, and Occupational Health and Safety Acts are all in there -- or the equally ungainly roster of public interest bodies founded or sponsored by Nader and his associates (early on dubbed "Nader's Raiders") to
acknowledge Nader's unique place in American society. But since 2000, this stunning record of achievement on behalf of the masses of ordinary Americans has been overshadowed by two controversial presidential bids, and, moreover, to such a degree that among liberals today mere mention of the name Ralph Nader acts as a starting bell for vituperative political in-brawling.
This, then, is the arc of the career covered by first-time filmmakers Henriette Mantel and Steven Skrovan in their sharp, lively, and illuminating two-hour documentary profile of Nader, "An Unreasonable Man." Brimming with interviews from Nader, his family, friends, former friends, and enemies alike, as well as excellent archival footage, the film unfolds a fascinating story that at least one commentator (Phil Donohue) not unreasonably calls Shakespearean in outline.