When the truth becomes a weapon, power comes at a stunning price. Gary Oldman, Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges and Christian Slater deliver electrifying performances in this controversial, suspenseful and critically-acclaimed th... more »riller that Ebert & Roeper and the Movies call "exciting and unusually intelligent, two very enthusiastic thumbs up!" Sometimes you can assassinate a leader without firing a shot.« less
Michel D. (michelann) from WALNUT GROVE, MO Reviewed on 5/16/2016...
WOW! This is a timely movie to watch around major election time! Great casting puts Joan Allen in the very human position of having sex when single! She is accused of adultery yet she was a single college gal when she made a few sexual indiscretions (she fooled around with some frat boys). Years later she is a Senator and chosen for a fast track opportunity to be VP to the President of the US, Jeff Bridges. Gary Oldman steals the show portraying head of the conformation committee as well as a jealous rival who wants the power for himself! Very riveting thriller that makes one think... and that's a good thing!
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
WELL DONE POLILTICAL DRAMA
Gerard T. McGuire | 10/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In this election year, THE CONTENDER hits the mark as a well done political drama. Outstanding performances and a well conceived plot make this movie a possible oscar vehicle for some of its stars.Jeff Bridges plays the president of The United States who is faced with a monumental decision: his vice president has died and he must soon name a nominee as the successor. After some good candidates are left by the wayside he chooses a powerful female senator played by Joan Allen as his nominee. During the confirmation proceedings it is learned that the senator has an alleged naughty sexual past. Gary Oldman plays the head of the confirmation committee that is hell bent on destroying her image and leading the charge to have her nomination dissaproved. When the good senator refuses to answer any and all questions regarding her personal life, it leads to some tense moments between her and the president's staff. The slanderous campaign against her is thickened by some dirty play by another contender for the nomination. A surprise ending is all it took to clinch this as a must see movie.As I said, the plot is well thought out and brilliantly told in this script. The performances are solid all the way around. Joan Allen may find herself with an oscar nomination but even she is outshined by Gary Oldman. He is villanous, he is ruthless, he is just perfect in this role. I wouldnt be surprised if he took the best supporting Oscar statue for this character (at least based on what I have seen so far this year).Everything about this movie is done right. I have seen it in the theatre and I will be adding it to my home collection. Watch it as soon as you can!"
Boomer narcissism ...
John Galt | St. Louis, Missouri | 03/28/2001
(1 out of 5 stars)
"See Joan Allen give her stirring confirmation speech touting all the current left-wing goals(no guns, no smoking, no religion, pro-choice, pro-campaign finance reform, yadda yadda) But when asked why she changed from a Republican to a Democrat she states it was the party that changed, not her. Huh?...Her defiance to answering any questions on her supposed past indiscretions rests on the lofty principle that women should also have the freedom to participate in fraternity orgies and not have it reflect on their character. Oh yeah, and anyone who expects more from their leaders is a hypocrite. Joan Allen does a great job promoting moral relativism, acting earnest, and looking great in an evening gown."
A Political Story About Process, Not Ideology
A. Bowdoin Vanriper | Marietta, GA USA | 08/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Political junkies will have a wonderful time with _The Contender_, relishing its vivid characters, fancy political footwork, and twist-laden story. It's one of the best films in recent years about the *process* (as opposed to the content) of politics: a worthy addition to classics like _Mr. Smith Goes to Washington_, _Advise and Consent_, and _Wag The Dog_. If that's your cup of tea, add at least half-a-star to the four I've given it.
The four stars are for the viewer who's *not* a political junkie and just wants two hours of entertainment. _The Contender_ delivers that, with an impressively complex script and a large cast of interesting characters played to the hilt by first-rate actors who all seem to be having a great time. Jeff Bridges, in particular, is a revelation as the President. The film's flaws are matters of degree: the plot has one too many conveniently timed surprises and Gary Oldman's character, Rep. Shelby Runyon, is brilliantly *played* but underwritten.
When _The Contender_ came out in 2000, it was widely assumed to be a commentary on the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. It is, but it's also a commentary on many similar episodes: the failed nominations of John Tower, Robert Bork, Lani Guinier, and Zoe Baird; the savaging of both Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill; and the toppling of Speakers of the House Tom Foley and Newt Gingrich. Writer-director Rod Lurie is clearly outraged by what's become known as "the politics of personal destruction," and he attacks it savagely and convincingly here. His outrage is refreshingly non-partisan: The villains of his story are not *defined* by their party or their ideology, but by their willingness to abandon their principles for petty political gains.
It would be easy to write this movie off as another Hollywood story about saintly liberals and evil conservatives . . . easy, but wrong. Reverse the political polarity of the story (make Joan Allen's character a staunch conservative and Gary Oldman's a solid liberal) and, with very little adjustment, it still "works" and the same message still comes through: at the end of the day, there *are* things more important than winning.
Not of "what is," but a representation of the possibility of
Kevin Mahoney | Perkasie, PA USA | 12/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I must admit from the onset that I am not one to sit down and write reviews here. But after reading some of the reviews, I feel compelled to write one of "The Contender."
Others have done an excellent job of providing a plot summary, so I will spare you the repetition. I want to address some of the reviews that have bashed the movie for being "totally unrealistic" or "biased," especially those who explicitly state their "liberal" leanings.
First, "The Contender" makes no claims to be "objective," nor should the movie be judged by a "realisitic" litmus test. Yes, the movie is polemical. It makes no bones about its leanings. Personally, I don't think this should be grounds for dismissing the movie. I found the movie incredibly refreshing for 1) providing a critical, and cutting, progressive critique of the "culture wars" that dominate so much of our public, political discourse; 2) by not being limited by the demands of being "realistic," "The Contender" gives us a glimpse of the possibility of public discourse, grounded in the SPIRIT of the US Constitution and representative democracy. Too often political thrillers limit themselves to the intrigue of negotiating and manipulating the strings of bureaucratic power within the terms of that power. By contrast, "The Contender" asks "what if?" That is, what would it look like for someone to act on an ethical basis? What would it mean to stand on principle?
When I first watched "The Contender," I didn't really know the details of the movie, and was frankly looking for something that would be fun to watch. I love the genre of political thrillers, but I also don't expect much beyond the demands of the genre (Patterson and Grisham have really dominated how political thrillers are brought to the screen). Yet, "The Contender" went beyond the genre. Instead of the well-(market)tested version of the political thriller, it felt more like an inquiry into the principles of our Constitutional democracy that stands in stark contrast to how our democracy is currently practiced. It was refreshing to see a film of possibility that resisted a cynical representation of political life or that simply reconfirmed the easy message that "the government is corrupt."
In addition, the film is beautifully filmed. It's quiet when it should be quiet. The angles and the juxtapositions of scenes are masterful.
If you're looking for a "realistic" political thriller, then, admittedly, "The Contender" is not for you. You'll find yourself frustrated by the film's principles. But if you approach the film as a reflection upon the principles of a Constitutional democracy (from a decidedly progressive position), then you just might find yourself intrigued and thoughtful.
I say this as someone who is a committed lefty. I think that our democracy is limited and a representational democracy is not the end of democracy...that the realm of democratic participation needs to be extended. I have worked for years as an activist, organizer, and critic of the Right's domination of poltical life, unbridled capitalism, and the rise of Empire in the post-Cold War world. I am by no means someone who believes the system is working. All the more my surprise to find such possibility in this little film."
The "Ayes" Have it
!Edwin C. Pauzer | New York City | 03/12/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A lazy afternoon of fishing suddenly becomes a life and death struggle that will propel a governor to prominence and head a short list of vice presidential candidates to replace the one that just died. But the next surprise is the one who is actually given the nod, a senator from Ohio, Laine Hanson, played by Joan Allen.
This triggers a visceral reaction from Republican Senator Shelly Runyon of Illinois, played by Gary Oldman, who wants to see the passed over candidate, Governor Jack Hathaway, played by William Petersen, get the nod instead of her. As the chairman of the confirmation committee, there is only one thing for him to do--destroy her. Along the way, he enlists the help of a junior Democrat Congressman, Reginald Webster, played by Christian Slater who opposes her nomination for more idealistic reasons. The hearings provide the drama, and the camera takes us to the president, the hearings, the investigation by the FBI, and back to the hearings again. This keeps the story moving at a decent pace, and builds the suspense.
What makes this so good for me is that there are many scenes that I would be willing to see over again, but not all. After all, this is not "The Godfather." Should you see this, please go back to the beginning and note the governor's behavior and movement, and what the first woman in the story mouths to him.
The acting is superb. Senator Runyon reveals a sinister character who has fallen somewhere in the past from the idealistic and moral person his wife married. She sees, with dismay, the change that he does not realize. He plays his part with precise timing, speaking, halting, looking, waiting, baiting, only lacking the accent so identifiable of his home state. Joan Allen is a master at showing a face of barely contained emotion and distress. Jeff Bridges, as President Jackson Evans, is a disarming character who doesn't appear easily vexed in spite of the revelations that come out in the hearings. He takes them in stride, as well as his slight disappointment being unable to catch his White House chefs off-guard or lacking the ingredients for a meal he requests. His affability camouflages his caginess as he challenges once again the man he defeated in the presidential election, Shelly Runyon. A minor but thoroughly believable role was given to Kathryn Morris, playing Paige Willomina, a pony-tailed, cutsey, eye-glass-wearing, nerdy, almost ditzy FBI agent who is as sharp as a tack, and doesn't miss a word or nuance.
The viewer might be unhappy that the noble characters are progressive or that Runyon and his minions are not. You can despise the character of Runyon, without concern for his political persuasion. You can admire Hanson without embracing what she stands for politically. That is the strength of this film. Nevertheless, the movie represents something that is not so far from present-day Washington on both sides of the aisle--putting partisan politics above the good of the country and winning at all costs. Released in 2000, it might be a reflection of the White House and Congress of the last decade with some exaggeration, but ten years later, it might be a reality that no one thought would happen.
Four stars because it will appeal to the political drama afficionado, but as I watched the feminine form on the love seat next to me drift in and out of consciousness, I was reminded that it might not be for all audiences, and she will probably get even by turning on "The Bachelor." That's a terrifying thought.
This might be a story about democracy, but that doesn't mean it is practiced in this apartment.