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Knife Fight: Political Smugness Run Amok
is no equivalent for political journalist turned Pulitzer Prize winning
novelist Allen Drury in our current day and age. This sad fact is brought home loud and clear
in Bill Guttentag’s even sadder political wish fulfillment fantasy Knife Fight (trailer here), which opens
tomorrow in New York at the IFC Center.
Turner is a ruthless political consultant, but that is okay, because he only
uses his powers for “good” rather than “evil.”
Giving an ostensibly warts-and-all tutorial to his new apprentice
Kerstin, Turner explains, at their worst, his liberal clients are well-intentioned
rogues, where as the other party is nothing but scum-sucking corporate
tools. The prime example is the Clintonesque
Kentucky governor proposing to makes foreclosures a death-penalty crime. Tired of bending but not breaking his ethical
principles to save the philandering governor’s bacon, Turner recharges his
idealism by taking on a long shot California gubernatorial candidate, who
promises to save the state from bankruptcy with an unprecedented explosion of
of the most odious features of contemporary politics is the non-apology-apology
and Turner has one of the worst examples ever.
He does not quite say “I’m sorry you attempted suicide because you couldn’t
hack my relentless campaign of character assassination,” but its close.
in some places as a “political thriller,” Knife
Fight is anything but. Guttentag
(with an assist from former Gore flack Chris Lehane) thoroughly stacks the deck
in favor of Turner’s clients, while portraying him as unfailingly brilliant, so
there is absolutely no suspense whether righteousness will prevail. Even Turner’s big crisis of conscience
amounts to little more than a supposed showcase for his superior sensitivity.
when Knife Fight reminds viewers how
much we do not miss the cynical sanctimony and self-consciously rat-a-tat-tat dialogue
of The West Wing, Richard Schiff
appears as Dimitris, Turner’s Obiwan dirty trickster. As Turner, Rob Lowe exudes interminable
smugness. Eric McCormack does the same
as the governor, adding an impossibly bad southern accent. Of course, nobody of note plays any of the
conservative candidates, because they are seen exclusively in ridiculously over-the-top
attack ads. Only Jamie Chung comes
across remotely likable as the young Jedi Kerstin, perhaps because she has
little to do besides rolling her eyes at Turner’s unethical tactics.
If not the worst film of 2013 (time will tell), Knife Fight is the overwhelming
frontrunner for the most simplistic.
Indeed, it is so stilted and self-congratulatory it would make even
James Carville nauseous. The combination
of wafer-thin characterization and contrived plotting is not a winning one. Only the most insecure and insular leftwing
partisan could take solace from it. Not
recommended, not even for those who are down with it politically, chapter and
verse, Knife Fight opens tomorrow
(1/25) at the IFC Center.
Labels: Political films