Knife Fight

Directed by: Bill Guttentag

Starring:  Rob Lowe, Jamie Chung, Carrie-Anne Moss, Julie Bowen, and Eric McCormack

To win in politics, you have got to be the person who is willing to bring a gun to a knife fight.” – Paul Turner (Rob Lowe)

My early year movie slump continues.  I have yet to see a stellar film this year and I was hoping against hope that the Rob Lowe driven political indie Knife Fight would jump start 2013 for me.  Unfortunately, it did not.

Paul Turner (Rob Lowe) is a political advisor based in California.  Paul and his associates, Kerstin (Jamie Chung) and Dimitris (Richard Schiff) fix problems for politicians, particularly during the campaign season.  It’s an election year, so the team is in full on Scandal mode and they are dealing with three different candidates.  Larry (Eric McCormack) is the governor of Kentucky.  He is running against a former professional baseball player who is giving him a bit of trouble.  Turner and his team dig up some dirt on Larry’s running mate and coordinate a media blitz designed to make Larry’s opponent appear untrustworthy and weak.  Unfortunately, Larry has his own skeleton in the closet: a 22-year old waitress who Larry is having an affair with. 

In California, Stephen (David Harbour), a war hero and senator, is in the midst of a heated re-election battle.  The senator has a significant lead in the polls until he runs into a little trouble: he had a masseuse/prostitute give him a happy ending and she is now threatening to go to the press and destroy his family man image unless she receives millions in payout.  Rounding out Turner’s plate is Penelope (Carrie-Anne Moss).  Penelope is a well-respected physician who is fed up with her “do nothing” state government and decides that she wants to run for governor of California to make a real difference.  She begs Turner to represent and guide her.  Turner is reluctant to become involved with her because she is a political novice and lacks funds, name recognition and experience.  Knife Fight follows Paul Turner’s struggles to guide his clients through difficult political battles by using any means necessary to win, and his own personal ethical battle.

Knife Fight disappointed me.  As a child of the 80’s and a huge Parks and Recreation fan, I wanted to like this Rob Lowe-vehicle.  However, Knife Fight was obvious and predictable.  Two politicians involved in sex scandals?  How is that original?  Clinton, Petraeus, Sanford, Weiner, Edwards, Craig – I could list salacious political sex scandals all day long. That is nothing novel, or even particularly scandalous in this day and age.  To have two of Turner’s clients simultaneously involved in sex scandals as the primary plots in the film just seemed lazy to me.

Moreover, because of the lack of creativity and a lack of clever dialogue, the film dragged.  It was so slow in some spots that I found my mind wandering.  I became fascinated with Rob Lowe’s hair.  I don’t know whether it involves hair plugs or a piece, or if he is eternally having a really bad hair day, but there is something very very wrong about his hairdo.  At another point, I marveled that the characters met at a restaurant called “Donuts and Chinese Food”—which seemed like a random combination to me.  Then again, as a political junkie, I was tickled to see a cameo by John McCain campaign strategist Steve Schmidt.  In any event, the fact that the film was so stale that my attention was grabbed by random happenings rather than Lowe and his team’s efforts is indicative of how tedious the film was.

With all of that being said, Knife Fight does pose an interesting question—does the end justify the means?  Paul Turner’s team believes in their democratic candidates, flaws and all.  The way they see it, the bigger picture of legislation and leadership priorities outweighs any personal flaws.  So any dishonest, unethical, illegal action they take to ensure their candidates’ success is justifiable.

Knife Fight earns a low 0.09% rating. Have a red, white and blue martini with this one.