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STATE OF PLAY (2009) *** quick review by COOP

Posted on April 20th, 2009
Posted on April 20th, 2009


I mostly agree with Sebastian’s review on this one, but it did not excite me as much as other efforts like “The Insider” and 70’s political thrillers like “The Conversation.” There were some extremely clever (but sometimes confusing) twists and turns. I didn’t feel that the final twist and resolution made for a completely logical or compelling moment, but I appreciated the level of depth the filmmakers managed to achieve.

What “State of Play” does add to the table is some pretty insightful thoughts on issues like journalistic integrity, outsourcing military duties to private security firms and the advantage of the internet over printed newspapers. Many of these ideas rarely get their due analyzation in film and it was refreshing to see how these issues factor into our modern world.

I like all of the talent involved, but I wish Helen Mirren wasn’t given so much cutesy/profane dialogue to work with. Watching her crack the whip on her employees while spouting off a bunch of newspaper editor cliches went out the window with Perry White and J. Jonah Jameson. Rachel McAdams is infinitely adorable, but casting her as a newbie reporter is a bit on the nose. Robin Wright Penn plays the same old “stand by your man despite your marital problems” role she always does. Affleck doesn’t have the street cred anymore to be a box office draw and recent Oscar nominee Viola Davis gets a three-minute throwaway part as a coroner. They all performed well but I wasn’t really rooting for anybody.

The only performance that bowled me over… Jason Bateman. Ten years ago, if you told me that Jason Bateman would make a massive comeback and become higher profile than he ever was in the 80’s and 90’s, I would’ve laughed. That guy was probably a few lines away from receiving an Oscar nomination in this film and I predict he’ll win some big awards in the next few years. I’m pleasantly surprised that he’s easily becoming the best thing in any feature he co-stars, or even makes a cameo in.

As for Russell, he better hit the gym soon because he’s getting huge and starting to walk funny. His rapid weight gain already has him butting heads with producers and if he doesn’t watch out, he’s gonna be known as “that fat Australian guy who used to be badass Russell Crowe.”  It sure didn’t do Marlon Brando any favors.

I must note that “State of Play” is/was a very popular TV series over in the UK, which technically makes this movie a remake. I definitely agree with Sebastian that I desperately want to see the gritty 70’s-type thrillers make a comeback. Political thrillers have suffered lately due to audiences being turned off by thinly-veiled partisan views and the transparent agendas of the filmmakers. “State of Play” manages to avoid this pitfall by focusing more on the intrigue and greedy private corporations (which make much easier bad guys for all American audiences to digest rather than villainous U.S. soldiers or idealistic politicians from most recent efforts).   A well-done film, if not a genius one. 

Also…

We like our 70’s-style thrillers gritty. You hear me out there, filmmakers? Gritty, gritty, gritty… with a side helping of New York subway platform scum. It appears “The Taking of Pelham 123” remake has been updated, polished and homogenized to the point of ruining it.  Any potential remake of “The Warriors” will most certainly get the “Batman and Robin” treatment.  I would say let’s hope for more genre innovations in the near future instead of spit-shined redos of genre classics…  but we all know better than that now, don’t we?  Every once in awhile we get a competent thriller like “State of Play” which thankfully softens the blow a little. 

-Coop

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