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Review: The Contender (2000)

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Steve Kong

Oct 22, 2000, 10:27:28 PM10/22/00
The Contender (2000)
Review by Steve Kong
The Hard Boiled Movie Guide

The Contender is not a movie that was made just so that it could be
released during election year; it is a movie that is one of the best
political films I've seen yet.

Politics can be a dangerous thing to enter into. As we see increasingly,
it is not what a candidate stands for or how they've voted in the past;
moreover it is their "character" that sways most voters. And although some
may find this disgusting, it is just how things work nowadays. The
Contender puts out this message with a bolded exclamation mark at the
end. As the movie opens, the Vice President of the US has been dead for
some three weeks. No one has taken the spot yet, but there are two
contenders to the position. One is flat out turned down, that is the
governor of Virginia, Jack Hathaway (William Petersen), by the
President. The President, Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges) has another
contender in mind. She is Laine Hanson (Joan Allen). Hanson is a woman of
principles and she will stick to her principles no matter what. When a sex
scandal involving her breaks out she sticks with her principles that such
personal matters don't matter when being considered for the office of Vice
President. The chairman of the confirmation hearings, Congressman Sheldon
Runyon (a completely unrecognizable Gary Oldman) does think that such
scandalous things should be taken into consideration and he makes it hard
for the President to get Hanson confirmed for the office.

The film is written and directed by Rod Lurie and he does a wonderful job
with both. The script is tense where it needs to be and complex enough not
to make me feel like an outsider of Washington and it is also dumbed down
enough on the other hand that some of the things that I didn't know about
Washington were explained. Kudos to Rod Lurie for a wonderful film. Lurie
though has to thank his three big actors in the film for giving some
wonderful performances that bring the film to higher level.

The first and best performance of the film is Jeff Bridge's as the
President. Bridges plays the President with such passion that it's hard
not to imagine him as the President. His speech at the end of the film is
one of the best I've seen. Bridge's performance of the President draws a
lot from our current President Clinton. The consummate politician that is
under control in public and short on the fuse in private, Bridges deserves
a pat on the back for such a first-rate performance. Gary Oldman gives a
good performance also, although with Oldman it's hard to find a time when
he's not giving a good performance. And Joan Allen gets the spotlight of
the film. The two warring men, Evans and Runyon, bounce around her
character and she does a fine job at showing how strong her character
is and we are quick to be sympathetic to her cause and her beliefs.

The one thing that bothered me about the film, and this is only a minor
complaint, is the tacked on feel of the FBI investigation that runs as a
small subplot throughout the film. It seemed hastily written and
throughout the subplot scenes I was lost, that is until it all tied back
together at the end. The ending of the film is quick and you'll have to
pay attention to a clue of how it will end early on in the film. This
sprinkling of the facts was a nice touch by Lurie.

A good film is both timely and timeless, The Contender is both, and it will
surely be remembered as a classic. Don't Miss The Contender.

Steve Kong

not all film critics are the same.
i'm your hard boiled movie guide.

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