Tag Archives: Saul Rubinek

Rod Lurie’s The Contender

I like examining films about political corruption from decades ago that, if anything, were somewhat ahead of their time and are more potent these days in the age of the internet and social media. Rod Lurie’s The Contender is no exception, and looks at abuse of power by those with a lot of it to wield, and the frequently used and very bratty tactic of bringing up events from people’s past to run smear campaigns on the eve of elections, a dirty trick used heavily by both sides of any power struggle. Joan Allen is fantastic as a US Senator who is a strong candidate for Vice President until a fiery, amoral asshole of a rival played by Gary Oldman digs up dirt from her college days and threatens to derail the whole thing. This is a political drama and as such the script (courtesy of Lurie himself) has a whole truck of bells, whistles and supporting characters to give the film flourish, but at heart it’s a fascinating moral dilemma revolving around Allen and Oldman. The attack on her is vicious, below the belt slander and although not unfounded, it’s unwarranted by someone who is supposed to represent and uphold integrity with their position. The plot thickens when she discovers secrets of her own regarding his character and past, and struggles in herself whether to use this information to bring him down like he did to her, or rise above it and use other less sensationalist strategies to beat him. Her quandary culminates in a decision that many, including myself, would find fairly frustrating given the gauntlet of degradation she’s forced to walk through as a result of Oldman’s actions. That decision may not be what we want to happen emotionally as an audience based on what we’ve seen and felt, but it’s easy to remove ourselves and see why she does this, and view the example she has set for peers by making the hardest of calls. It’s mature, difficult storytelling and I’d forgotten what a thoughtful, prescient film this is. Many people from both sides of America’s divided masses and political parties could learn a thing or two from this story. Allen never overplays the role and uses that quiet observance she’s so good with to bring us closer to her character. Oldman is decked out in a strange curly wig and looks nothing like the sneering shark he becomes when he opens his mouth, it’s an interesting visual character choice. Jeff Bridges plays the President (I’d vote for him IRL) and the cast is stocked with excellent talent including Sam Elliott, Christian Slater, Saul Rubinek, Philip Baker Hall, Mariel Hemingway, Kathryn Morris and William L. Petersen. Great film, and gets more important as each year passes.

-Nate Hill

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Indie Gems with Nate: A Broken Life 

A Broken Life stars Tom Sizemore as a hopelessly depressed dude who has the notion of killing himself, after he spends a whole day going around to visit the various people in his life, tie off loose ends, make amends and right some wrongs. It’s a concept that could get silly, theatrical and self indulgent, but it’s handled swimmingly enough here, mostly thanks to Sizemore’s honest work that doesn’t really mug for emotional payoff or squeeze pathos where there’s nothing to mine. This is probably because he’s usually the hoped up maniac who is putting other people in the morgue, and like I always say, casting actors against type brings out the best intuitive nature. He’s also the lead, which means he gets to bring more than just a supporting dose of his power here, assisting the film greatly. He’s joined by his assistant  (Corey Sevier), who records the whole thing on a video camera, adding to the already indie flavor. His adventures include a visit to his old boss (Saul Rubinek) who mistreated him years earlier. Sizemore and Rubinek have faced off before in Tony Scott’s True Romance, in kinetic fashion. Here they’re just as electric, but reign it in a bit as the material requires, crafting one of the film’s most effective scenes. Other ventures include a reunion with his estranged ex wife (Cynthia Dale), and frequent run ins with a sagely homeless man (Ving Rhames) who spouts a lot of benevolent wisdom that seems to be profound and nonsensical all at once. These type of films either work or they don’t, plain and simple. They’re either giant mopey ego balloons or terrific little eleventh hour character studies that come from a place of honesty. This one has a few off key notes of the former, but fpr the most part glides smoothly along the tracks of the latter category, thanks to Sizemore’s committed performance.