[Sidebar] The Worcester Phoenix
October 5 - 12, 2000

[Movie Reviews]

| reviews & features | by movie | by theater | film specials | hot links |


by Peter Keoug

The politics of the '60s and '70s were a lot more exciting and meaningful than nowadays, and so were the movies about politics. In his two films, writer/director Rod Lurie has returned to that era, updating Sidney Lumet's Fail-Safe with his debut, Deterrence, and Otto Preminger's Advise & Consent (not to mention Alan Pakula's All the President's Men and a host of others) for his latest, The Contender.

For a while it seems he might be on to something. Senator Jack Hathaway (Clinton look-alike William Petersen), who's up for the vice-presidential spot vacated by the incumbent's sudden demise, seems to have a lock on it when he almost saves a woman from a submerged car. After congratulating him on his heroism, however, President Jackson Evans (a shoe-sniffing Jeff Bridges) blows him off because the incident smacks too much of Chappaquiddick. Now that's cynical. Later, the candidate of choice, Senator Laine Hanson (a long-suffering and dull Joan Allen), gets her call from the White House while in flagrante delicto with a bare-butted guy.

Pretty behind-the-scenes. But not for long. Evans proves to be a pussycat, and Hanson is married to the man with his slacks around his ankles. That doesn't stop Evans's arch-enemy, Representative Shelly Runyon (Gary Oldman, oddly resembling Jean-Luc Godard in a performance of lipsmacking malevolence), from turning up dirt about Hanson's frat-party peccadilloes while she was in college. Hanson on principle refuses to discuss or defend her past during the congressional confirmation hearings. It's not a bad premise, but despite a jangly cinéma-vérité style reminiscent of documentaries like The War Room, punchy dialogue, and a last minute twist, the film deteriorates into fustian, vaguely left-of-center flag waving with speeches and stentorian music. Like the two lightweights fighting for the White House in the present election, this Contender wouldn't last a round with the real thing.

[Movies Footer]

| home page | what's new | search | about the phoenix | feedback |
Copyright © 2000 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group. All rights reserved.