The independent movie plots the tangles of money, sex, and politics, but it seems geared toward an audience unfamiliar with the genre.
Divisadero Pictures, Knife Fight
Before the opening music wraps on Knife Fight, we've been treated to a litany of clichés that suggests that this is a political movie made for people who have never seen one. Rob Lowe is political consultant Paul Turner, in a film recently screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, co-written and produced by long-time Democratic strategist Chris Lehane, and currently looking for distribution. There's a Friday night document dump, the notion that if one is explaining one is losing, and the suggestion that money is, indeed, the mother's milk of politics. Then things settle on our premise, another well-worn trope: that the best politicians are likely to sleep around. As Turner puts it, "You don't get the outsized talent without the outsized weakness." Eric McCormack is the drawling, darling governor of Kentucky and theater actor David Harbour is an Afghanistan War hero turned senator from California. Both are concerned, right-minded politicians who are flawless but for one flaw: the occasional extramarital sexual dalliance. (The sex really is meant to be toss-aside. It's not even clear whether Harbour's character is conscious at the time of his encounter with the inevitable masseuse.)
The job of Turner and his allies, including Lowe's The West Wing co-star Richard Schiff, is to keep these cads in office. The operatives work their magic through heartstring-tugging ads crafted by a tattooed video virtuoso, romancing the press, and, when things really count, acts of all-out fraud. Directed by Bill Guttentag, the film is enjoyably fast-paced and even fun in spots, and Lowe and the rest of the cast give it their all. But Knife Fight reduces itself to a simple calculation. You're a political consultant. Is it more honorable for you to help elect and protect smart, committed, and generally decent men with zipper problems -- or to let power go instead to dumb politicians with little more to offer the country than good hair?