Imagine a cross between a lesser episode of "House of Cards" and one of those semi-tawdry direct-to-video "erotic thrillers" that kept the likes of Tanya Roberts and Shannon Whirry in cigarette money during the early 90s and you might come up with something along the lines of "Zipper," a borderline embarrassing tale of political ambition and sexual addiction that is too tawdry to work as a serious film and way too self-serious to make it as camp.Patrick Wilson stars as Sam Ellis, a federal prosecutor in South Carolina with ambitions of going on to higher political office. He seems straight as an arrow but after meeting a high-priced escort who is going to be a witness in an upcoming case, some switch is flipped in him and he soon finds himself touring websites touting such services and when his wife, Jeannie (Lena Headey), and their young son are away for a long week, he finally succumbs to his urges and books a session with a girl (Alexandra Breckenridge) that he vows to himself will be a one time thing. Apparently he got more than a switch flipped during that assignation because he is soon going through dozens of pre-paid phones booking sessions with escorts--a different one every time--at a series of hotels and not even the constant threat of exposure to his wife, his co-workers (who are working on a case against the very same escort service) or an intrepid reporter (Ray Winstone) are enough to dissuade him until things finally get too far out of his control.
The ingredients are there for either an earnest drama about a self-righteous politico done in by his own hubris or a cheerfully lurid and trashy potboiler. Alas, director Mora Stephens and co-writer Joel Viertel can never quite figure out which approach to take and constantly switch back and forth between the two. In some scenes, we see Sam wondering out loud why politicians are held to a higher standard when it comes to personal matters and these overtly on-the-nose moments have a tendency to steer the film into after-school special territory. At other times, it goes for a more exploitative feels by offering up extended montages of Sam doing some independent polling, if you know what I mean, that offer up plenty of titilation but no real insight as to what might drive an otherwise rational person to such risky behavior. Then, almost as a way of making sure that no one goes home who isn't somehow disappointed, the film ends on a cynical note that was presumably meant to convey some kind of devastating irony but which is presented in such a ham-fisted manner that it all but underlines itself. As the troubled politico, Wilson basically offers a weak variant of his character in the infinitely better "Little Children" while co-stars like Headey, Winstone, Dianna Agron and Richard Dreyfuss are pretty much wasted throughout.Outside of the brief but striking performance by Breckenridge as our hero's gateway escort and one nifty plot development that finds him putting himself in charge of his office's investigation of the very same service he is using, "Zipper" is a flaccid drama that neither knows what it wants to say nor has any idea of how to say it. In terms of films about sexual addiction, this one is not so much "Shame" as it is just a shame.