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The Contender (2000)
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Review Date: October 11, 2000
Director: Rod Lurie
Writer: Rod Lurie
Producers: W. Bär, M. Frydman, J. Spies, D. Urbanski
Actors:
Joan Allen
Gary Oldman
Jeff Bridges
Plot:
The president of the United States must choose a new vice-president to replace the previous one who died. The president chooses to elect a woman for the post, a woman who must first proceed through confirmation hearings run by a powerful political adversary. That adversary attempts to discredit the nominee by digging up all of her past improprieties and bringing them to the political forefront. Political clashes ensue.
Critique:
A solid political film which to my surprise, moved along at a speedy pace, offered many strong performances, especially the incomparable Gary Oldman, and provided great entertainment. This movie seemed to have it all packaged and ready to deliver. An interesting and timely story line, debating the personal nature of a politician's private life versus the American public's "right to know". Twists and turns which I personally did not see coming, but Mrs. JoBlo somehow did. Notable direction by Rod Lurie who admirably took an extremely politically charged screenplay and turned it into a fascinating drama, all without bogging it down in overripe political movie jargon. He even spiced the whole affair up with perfect touches of humor throughout. Who knew the president could be so loosey-goosey behind the scenes, but gosh darn it, I bought it all with this film! But the true tip of the cap goes out to the entire cast of this movie and the characters whom they chose to inhabit. I loved them all.

Gary Oldman has always been one of my most favorite actors, a man who can literally change his entire physical being to "become" someone else. In this film, he completely personifies this character, creating a man who can only be described as memorable beyond belief (he even managed to make him irritating while chewing on a piece of meat...grrrr, stop making all that noise, you bastard!). But he's not the only pearl in the bunch. More kudos go out to Sam Elliott, a man not known for taking parts in "big" movies, but certainly perfect as the president's right-hand man in this one. In either case, I would be somewhat surprised not to see them nominated at the year end recognition of talent awards. Joan Allen also drives home the intensity, sensitivity and unshakable convictions of her character, while Jeff Bridges surprises all as the amiable, yet shrewd president of the United States. Although I could have done without the bombastic score during his final sermon...I mean, speech. And yes, even Christian Slater worked as the up-and-coming congressman looking to make something of himself. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this film and especially its noteworthy performances. If only this year's real-life candidates were even half as interesting any of the main characters in this film... :)
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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