March 12, 2013

Knife Fight

Snuck over to Real Art Ways this evening to catch the Rob Lowe indie vehicle Knife Fight.

OK, I'm a big West Wing geek, recently Netflixed the entire series, and kind of missed Rob Lowe - his character Sam Seaborn disappeared without a very satisfying plot explanation (yeah he ran for the house on the West Coast, yeah, he lost....did he lose his return ticket?)

So here he is, looking not a lot older, a bit funkier and frayed (Lowe's character Paul Turner has more of a Josh Lyman vibe here than a Sam Seaborn vibe, witness the knapsack over the shoulder, as well as a pair of worn sneakers rather than italian leather loafers) - as a shoot from the hip political strategist with a small staff. Icing on the cake - Richard Shiff as a darker political operative. I was happy to give it a whirl, just based on these two. 

The trailer for the film was a bit scattered and confusing. What's not clear there is that Paul Turner is working with three politicos - a Kentucky governor (was that really Erik McCormack?) - with an intern problem, a California senator (less sleazy, but with a massage therapist problem), and a CA doctor (Carrie Anne Moss) running an outsider campaign for governor. Somehow one gets the idea via the trailer that at least two of these are running against each other and it's not clear which side Lowe's character is on.

Confused that Carrie-Anne Moss seems to carry co-billing (at least based on the poster); she's kind of in the background through much of the film, and Jamie Chung's young operative in training character (Turner's assistant) is a lot more prominent in the film. And that energetic soft focus seems to carry through a lot of the film.

There's a lot going on here - perhaps too much for one film. The sleazy but on the right side of the issues KY governor's "stand by your man" wife is an old friend of Paul Turner, the CA senator is "the real thing" - a war hero and family man who is flawed but solid. The doctor / wanna-be CA governor spends 1/2 the film on the outside, pleading for a shot until Turner has a "come to Jesus" moment around a political strategy that went too far, and suddenly she's right up front. And Chung's character is in a lesbian relationship - there's a scene or two of her with her GF, it's clear she's in the closet professionally, and that little plot is left hanging out there unresolved. Why fold that in to an already thick and interwoven plot?

At the end, things wrap up, the spin doctor is back in business, albeit a little humbled and perhaps less sketchy in terms of tactics, and Chung's character decides she's gonna stay in the business. The resolution seemed a little unsatisfying. The lessons learned were slight, the repercussions as well, and whatever lines got crossed in this film will probably be crossed at some future election cycle.

Worth seeing? Definitely, with enough West Wing vibe to satisfy - but I'm kind of sad to say it looks like a short run - stopped by Real Art Ways for a short week and there were only a handful in the house on a Tuesday night.  

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