Spike Lee’s new movie is a typically furious, indignant piece of work, and it offers plenty of opportunities for the director to show off his cinematic virtuosity. You have to admire it for taking on big issues, and as always you have to marvel at Lee’s technical wizardry. But ultimately “She Hate Me” is a frustrating failure. The script by Michael Genet and Lee addresses too many subjects, and never manages to wrestle them to the ground or integrate them into a coherent whole. And as the film passes the two hour point, it becomes difficult even to appreciate its visual extravagances. Unlike a project such as “The 25th Hour,” in which a crisp, focused script by other hands compelled Lee to hone in on a central theme and use his skill to enliven it, this picture goes all over the place and winds up nowhere.

The picture begins as an assault on the culture of corporate corruption represented by Enron and WorldCom and the sort of financial shenanigans associated with ImClone, with–needless to say–a racial component. The protagonist, John Henry (or “Jack”) Armstrong (newcomer Anthony Mackie)–the name clearly points both to a black hero and the all-American boy–is an executive at a pharmaceutical company called Progeia, run by Leland Powell (Woody Harrelson), a wildly pumped-up CEO. Unfortunately, the company’s future is tied to an AIDS vaccine that has just been denied FDA approval, and its creator Dr. Schiller (David Bennett) kills himself after suggesting to Jack that some financial irregularities are afoot. When Jack sees documents being shredded, he decides to get word to federal investigators, but is promptly fired when his whistle-blowing is discovered. Before long it’s Jack, set up by his former boss, who’s being scrutinized by the SEC, and with his savings frozen and his employment prospects nil, he finds himself on the verge of disaster. Fortuitously a different sort of prospect comes out of left field. Jack’s ex-fiancee, Fatima (Kerry Washington) appears at his door with her lesbian lover Alex (Danta Ramirez) and a proposal: both women want to have children, and if Jack will impregnate them, they’ll each pay him ten grand. His success along these lines leads them to recommend him to other gay women with the same need and equally substantial bankrolls. The upshot is that when the Progeia business finally is taken up in court and Congress, Jack’s unusual professional activities have a deleterious effect on his credibility. As if this weren’t enough incident for a single movie, Lee and Genet stuff “She Hate Me” with additional elements. There’s a subplot involving one of Jack’s clients, Simona Bonasera (Monica Bellucci); she just happens to be the daughter of a Mafia don (John Turturro), who has a heart-to-heart with Jack that includes a reprise of the famous monologue from “The Godfather” in which it’s argued that drug trafficking should be reserved for African-American neighborhoods. There’s another concerning Jack’s parents–Geronimo (Jim Brown), a strong man restricted to a wheelchair by diabetes and constantly at odds with his wife Lottie (Lonette McKee). And near the close a committee hearing headed by a blowhard senator (Brian Dennehy) adds political corruption to the mix (a shot of a three-dollar bill with George Bush’s image on it during the credits had already planted the seed).

There are occasional nuggets of incisive commentary in this maze of material, but how all the threads are supposed to be related is a mystery. Is the fact that Jack–the prototypical African-American male–is screwed both by the system (a point made by repeated references to Frank Wills, the black security man who uncovered the Watergate burglary but died unrecognized and in poverty) and by emphatically liberated females meant to suggest some sort of equivalency between the two, and to convey a cry of rage against not only the social but also the sexual emasculation if black men? Is it the lesson of the picture that the corporate malfeasance, which nearly goes unpunished, is the far greater evil than Jack’s indiscriminate fathering of children by nineteen different women, which is spontaneously condemned and vilified by “good society”? Is the enthusiastic reaction of the lesbians to sex with Jack intended to imply that their orientation is somehow suspect? And what about the “happy” ending? Are the aid given to Jack by a conscience-stricken Progeia VP (Ellen Barkin) and Powell’s eventual downfall actually intended to be hopeful? And is the “everybody arm-in-arm” conclusion designed to be a celebration of “untraditional” families of every sort? One can appreciate Lee’s desire to take on so many provocative themes, but the fact is that he never manages to make them hang together in any meaningful way.

The level of coherence isn’t aided by the picture’s wild, flamboyant feel–it fluctuates from crude satire to steamy sex to oddball animation to dramatic confrontation without bothering to prepare us for the changes, merely barreling forward in the director’s typically raucous, though visually elegant style. Lee also encourages his cast to extremes, with the result that many of the talented performers are much too broad, most notably Harrelson, Davis and Dennehy, who restrain themselves as little as Lee does. Brown is comparatively restrained and so more effective, and Turturro gets by with a smoothly comic turn as the self-conscious Mafioso, but the women are mostly harpies–only Barkin transcends the stock elements of the writing, with Jack’s various clients all played as very crude caricatures. Mackie, on the other hand, shows considerable promise as the ill-used Jack. Apart from the congressional sequence at the end, where he’s forced to pontificate in absurdly flowery language that emphasizes multi-syllables over meaning, his intensity is convincing, and he demonstrates an easy screen authority unusual for a newcomer. The technical team, led by cinematographer Matthew Libatique, respond enthusiastically to Lee’s characteristically inventive vision, even if the pictorial pizzazz often seems ladled on without much reference to emotional impact, and Terence Blanchard’s moody score complements the visual sheen, although it’s sometimes very intrusive.

“She Hate Me” has some impressive elements, but they never make a satisfying whole. It’s an ambitious but undisciplined mess of a movie.