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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.33%
Worth A Look: 24%
Just Average: 20%
Pretty Crappy26.67%
Sucks: 12%

7 reviews, 33 user ratings

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Contender, The
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by Greg Muskewitz

"Joan Allen shows again that she has what it takes!"
5 stars

I made the same claim around the end of March this year as I am right now: I am not at all a fan of politics (and this on going pathetic race between pathetic Al Gore and even more pathetic George Dubya Bush is only wood fueling the fire). The film "Deterrence" didn't make me change how I felt, but it gave me a different view of it. An intense and exciting view. The writer/director of that, Rod Lurie returns with another intense political fable. But the corruption that Lurie paints is a solid example why I don't like politics, and as it is, I'm sure Lurie didn't even have to exaggerate.

President Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges) is in the process of looking for a replacement VP, building his legacy, a so-called "swan song." He selects Ohio Senator Laine Hanson (Joan Allen), and as no surprise, it becomes the hot topic, the controversy in the big political circus as to putting a woman in office. The big complications come during the conformational hearings when Congressmen Shelly Runyon (a disguised Gary Oldman with random thatches of hair) decides to make it a mudslinging contest. He has his own reasons, but when he gets wind of a possible "sexual imbroglio," of "deviant sex" (the flashbacks or implied happenings infer it was some extension of a threesome) that involved Hanson when she was in college. But she refuses to play back and takes her firm stance ("It is simply below my dignity!").

As surprising as it may seem, "The Contender" isn't as much about politics as it is about character and principals. While Runyon is busy trying to prove that "The American public would be happy to know a woman is just as ruthless," and, "One thing they can't stomach is a mouthful of cock." Lurie gives Hanson a cool composure and pride, but not haughty pride. He makes his characters intelligent --maybe naïve or oblivious --but ostensibly they're like heat seeking missiles. (Runyon: "What I say the American public will believe, you know why? Because I'll have a big microphone in my face." Hanson: "If there's one thing you don't want, it's a woman with her finger on the button who isn't getting laid!") So Lurie's script is not just intellectual, but it's witty as well. Lurie executes his direction in a formal manner: he isn't nearly as concerned with the visual aesthetic portion as he is in character and plot development. I like the point that Lurie's trying to prove through Hanson, however ideological it may be, that a woman should not be held to a different standard as men. Clinton screws around --so what? But a "rumored" college experiment causing all this ruckus --it's just because she's a woman.

Joan Allen is wonderfully statue-esque and structured. As an actress, she is constantly proving her dexterity, and it bothers me that she's always snubbed and overlooked ("Pleasantville," "Nixon," "The Icestorm," "The Crucible," "Ethan Frome,") and I don't want to jinx her chances by saying so, but you know what I'm suggesting (she should win it too!). Allen has a formidable, virile presence and has proved herself as one of our top actresses. Oldman, though totally unlikable, spectacularly morphs into this role, becoming it instead of portraying it. You forget it's him. He's a gutsy actor (wait until you see him in "Hannibal") and he definitely earns his praise. I only wish we could have a president as cool and "unreal" so-to-say, as Bridges' characters (he bowls Lebowski-style, smells his shoes, loves to have the kitchen cook up random stuff, etc.). Bridges was fun and entertaining. And the rest of the cast is strong and rightfully supporting as well, including Sam Elliott, William Peterson, Saul Rubinek, Phillip Baker Hall, Mike Binder, Robin Thomas, and even Christian Slater.

Film critic-cum-writer/director Lurie has effectively branded his own brand of film out there. (The press kit says that in years of Presidential Election that it's like Super Bowl for him.) He's another new name that I can add to my anticipation list. Lurie knows how to interest even the most uninterested in his work, and the development and gain he displays (along with some good twists) shows skill. "The Contender" isn't as good as "Deterrence," but like it, it's one of the year's best.

Final Verdict: A-.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4465&reviewer=172
originally posted: 11/20/00 14:12:32
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User Comments

1/20/09 dj waterman Silly and Fake, this movie also has a fake-out ending. Unrealistic and bombastic. 2 stars
11/24/07 Ron Patterson Best damn film I have seen all year! 5 stars
6/29/07 fools♫gold A lovable movie that I underrate about as much as I underrate the remake of The Wicker Man. 4 stars
8/17/05 ES I was honestly cheering for Hathaway, ending is a let down 2 stars
9/03/03 David Tomlin Stupid. Unsophosticated. Implausible. Good performances. Titillating sex. 2 stars
5/23/03 K.B Again This film was so bad i had to vote for it again. 1 stars
3/20/03 Jack Sommersby Purposeless, overlong, and just plain boring. Bridges and Oldman are outstanding, though. 2 stars
3/04/03 K. B Pure left-wing bullshit propaganda. I rather watch Batman & Robin again then this trash. 1 stars
1/19/03 Joesco Excellent performances from Bridges and Allen who breathes integrity 4 stars
11/15/02 Big Ted Wonderful Film. Gary Oldman deserved the Oscar nod over Bridges though. 5 stars
5/26/02 Jessica Davis Just a vanity project that fails to address anything about qualifications for a V.P. 2 stars
10/16/01 phil m. afficiando Good cast , acting, and premise; too narrow and contrived to satisfy. Missed opportunity. 3 stars
10/01/01 Bada Bing Crosby Has something to say about prejudice, the double-standard & Muenster cheese 4 stars
8/06/01 Bash . 2 stars
6/20/01 Jim Renwick democratic's good guys; republican's bad guys. Which one are u? 3 stars
5/12/01 DREDD it trys to make clinton look good, but it's full of shit 2 stars
4/28/01 The Jedi Droid so lemme see if I got this right...Gladiator was a better movie than this??? I THINK NOT!! 5 stars
4/15/01 The Bomb 69 never would happen in real life but a gripping political drama nonetheless 5 stars
4/01/01 Chuck D Eh, kinda preachy, I loved the "Big Lebowski" reference though, god that was classic 2 stars
3/27/01 Monday Morning Hey Godfather, try some Prep-H on those 'roids. This is good, smart entertainment. 4 stars
3/26/01 nowak Pro-Clinton, manipulative s**t. 2 stars
3/19/01 Kriperace Another thinly-disguised left wing diatribe. Typical of H'wood. 2 stars
3/16/01 Dracco Way to spell Satan Godfather. Now who's the retarded snail? 5 stars
3/12/01 Rhythm Blankenhorn The Godfather must be a right-winger. Very good movie for moderates 4 stars
3/12/01 tinsley7 Very Good Movie! If you pay attention that is. 4 stars
3/03/01 Suzz trite, predictable and boring 2 stars
2/02/01 Benway truly terrible example of Hollywood mythmaking at its worst and an insult to smart women 1 stars
11/17/00 Edward A Leonard Too Womens-Lib, also kisses Bill Clinton's Anus 2 stars
11/08/00 Patti Great performances, although a fairy-tale ending 5 stars
11/01/00 Ilie Agopian Below average script, implausible plot, Sam Elliot & Gary Oldman = good performance 2 stars
10/15/00 frankko good performances, crap-ass ending 2 stars
10/15/00 Politicsman Read Eric's Review, add two stars. Very timely, ranks with other great political films 5 stars
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  13-Oct-2000 (R)


  22-Mar-2001 (M)

Directed by
  Rod Lurie

Written by
  Rod Lurie

  Jeff Bridges
  Joan Allen
  Gary Oldman
  Sam Elliot
  Christian Slater
  William L. Petersen

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