WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Who could ever forget the never ending story of last yearís U.S. elections? The allegations, mudslinging, recounts and hanging chads were about as much as anyone could handle as crafty Dubya managed to squeak by Al Gore in what many consider to be the closest election in U.S. history. Another presidential mishap, spiced up with a good olí fashioned sex scandal (where have we heard this one before?), unfolds in "The Contender" whose DVD includes a decent commentary and no less than ten deleted scenes.
After the sudden death of the acting Vice President, the current President of the United States (Jeff Bridges) decides to select a female senator (Joan Allen) to fill the vacant role. As she prepares to accept the position, numerous political opponents (led by Gary Oldman) uncover some very embarrassing details from her past and organize a plan to remove her from the White House.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
When I first saw this movie in theatres during its initial release, I gave it a so-so. After another viewing though, Iím changing my rating to a full blown thumbs up. I guess itís just a case of increased appreciation the second time around. This movieís major strength is its absolutely stellar cast who as a collective unit, manage to all deliver some very impressive performances. There werenít any slouches among the group, they were all fantastic. Joan Allen really impressed me as the iron lady who refuses to back down from allegations threatening her future political aspirations. Jeff Bridges, as the acting President, had me in awe the whole way through. His "common man" portrayal of the Commander in Chief, with his biting wit and affinity for exotic foods was a real treat. Who could have thought the most powerful man in the country could be so human, so down to earth? A special mention also goes out to Gary Oldman for playing the ultimate political villain, a man so consumed by his convictions and hatred, that heíd stop at nothing to foil his opponents. Another mesmerizing performance, complete with plenty of emotionally charged outbursts. The Oscars completely snubbed you, dude!
Another thing that I really enjoyed about this film was its ability to take the viewer behind the scenes of U.S. politics and allow us to bear witness to the corruption, the conniving and the dastardly politics. The numerous heated exchanges between many of the characters were compelling to watch, with good writing and solid direction all around. I also dug the fact that the movie never lagged, moving at a blistering pace as pieces of the scandal begun to come to light. And while being slightly predictable, the movie did manage to throw in just the right amount of swerves and twists to keep me guessing and on the edge of my seat until the final few scenes. While suspense movies may not be the current "flavor of the week", I can always appreciate a solid political thriller and this one certainly delivers the goods. With a great cast and excellent story, itís definitely worth checking out.
First off in the added features is "The Making of a Political Thriller" which clocks in at just over 21 minutes. It basically provides interviews with cast and crew but focuses primarily on the history of the actual genre of politically driven movies, showing clips from such classics as ALL THE PRESIDENTíS MEN and THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. While not exactly your conventional behind the scenes piece, I think itís worth checking out all the same. The DVD also includes 10 deleted scenes which can be accompanied by commentary from director Lurie. Some of the scenes are very brief but all of them are worth going through. You can watch the scenes separately or watch them consecutively by selecting the "Play All" option. Finishing up the extras are the original theatrical trailer and extensive production notes. The disc features some very slick menus with clips from the movie backed by the great soundtrack.
If they had only added just a bit more in terms of added features, this one would have been easily worth the money. Regardless, the movie itself is clearly one of the better thrillers to come out this year and that alone makes it a very solid rental. If you really loved the flick and would like to know more about how it came together and what influenced the production, drop the cash and pick it up, you wonít be disappointed. This release, despite some minor flaws, is yet another solid example of why Dreamworks is still one of the top studios for putting out great DVDs.