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  • Knife Fight [Import]
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Knife Fight [Import]

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Political Drama That Wants To Be Shocking And Incendiary, But Plays It Way Too Safe June 7 2013
By K. Harris - Published on
Format: DVD
Part satire, part expose, part commentary, the political drama "Knife Fight" targets some pretty familiar topics. Unfortunately, it doesn't do so in a new or illuminating way. Saying that the American political process is corrupt AND unscrupulous is like preaching to the choir. Is there anyone left with the idealism necessary to make this thought even remotely controversial or incendiary? Just watching the smear campaigns, the Internet rumors, and the negative press during every election season, it seems pretty clear that it is a flawed system (perhaps even irreparably flawed). There is no civility, but a policy of doing whatever necessary to gain the upper hand. That said, there have been some brilliant films to address the subject that were both merciless and unforgettable. "Knife Fight," in the end, doesn't offer anything to the debate. It's pleasant, watchable, and has an attractive and likable cast and maybe that's enough for some. But it lacks teeth, surprise, and true controversy. Heck, I think 1949's "All The King's Men" is still more relevant and shocking than this piece!

Rob Lowe plays the power broker at the heart of the movie. A savvy political strategist, Lowe is the point person for several notable campaigns including a scandalized California senator (a solid David Harbour) and a philandering Kentucky governor (Erik McCormack). With the help of his faithful staff (including newbie Jamie Chung), they are doctors of spin turning negatives into positives whenever possible. And if not possible, just make the other guy look even worse! At its best, "Knife Fight" does showcase some amusing campaign ads. They are, to me, the most effective aspect of the film's screenplay. At worst, the film threatens to turn all warm and fuzzy with the idea of a qualified, but inexperienced, doctor (Carrie-Anne Moss) who wants to vie for the gubernatorial seat. This foray into idealism is both corny and unbelievable and contains a shocking turn of events that won't surprise anyone. It's all formulaic and predictable.

"Knife Fight," initially, doesn't even seem to know what kind of movie it wants to be and that is reflected in a confused narrative structure. It begins with a voice-over observation by Chung, indicating that we will be seeing things unspool from her perspective. It also uses graphics to identify major players and their titles giving the introduction a faux documentary feel. But neither of these devices is followed through with for very long so one wonders why they were used at all. Instead, it plays as light drama or light satire. I'm not even sure which! It is all rather mild mannered and tepid, but it thinks it is being provocative. Maybe I'm particularly jaded, but it takes quite a bit more to shock and/or appall me. Despite this, I didn't hate "Knife Fight." It's not a terrible movie, just not the meaningful one it intends to be. Lowe is good, Chung is appealing, and the cast is loaded with familiar faces. For "Knife Fight" to have been a success, it simply had to be smarter than it is and more committed to taking chances. Extremely lightweight, I won't remember anything about this in a few months. KGHarris, 6/13.
How can political campaigns be so boring? Dec 29 2014
By Tim Lieder - Published on
Format: DVD
I usually hate conspiracy theories, but as I was watching this slog through the campaign movie cliches, I began to think that Aaron Sorkin had secretly funded it after reading the script in order to deflect attention from his very pompous News Room. After all, Sorkin has been trying to live up to The West Wing for over a decade now and everything that worked with the West Wing now sound incredibly tone deaf. So this is the movie that people can watch and think about how much better Aaron Sorkin does it.

Movies about election campaigns and spin doctors always remind me of the Life in Hell joke about how comedies are funny, the French are funny, sex is funny and yet no French sex comedies are funny. Campaigns are very entertaining. One of my favorite books is Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 even though I have moved past the point where I thought that McGovern would have been a good president. The intricacies of the primary season and the favorites and the favors are amazing. Yet, one of my least favorite books is Primary Colors where the fictionalized version of Bill Clinton swarms his way through 300 boring pages of an author trying to impress the audience with how much he knows. For some reason, the entertain value of the campaign falls away when it's fictioanlized. Unless the political insider show is something crazy like House of Cards, it's just not a fraction of the entertainment value of watching political shows on Sunday morning or the scene in The War Room where Stephanopoulos entertains Carville with a bogus concession speech that both know is never going to be needed.

Still, even by the low standards of political campaign movies, this is deadly dull. While it's got all the looks of spin doctors, none of the scandals that Rob Lowe handles have any originality. There is the Swift Boat and there's the massage therapist who gave a happy ending. There's also teh virtuous doctor who manages a free clinic and wants to run for governor. These aren't interesting characters. They are types and there's nothing that pushes the movie about the cliches.
Encore! When's the sequel? Oct. 13 2013
By GskFn - Published on
Format: DVD
What a blast! I loved Knife Fight, and my only complaint is, I wish it were a cable tv drama so I could look forward to 12 episodes in successive seasons. Lacking that, what we have here is an hour and forty minutes of fresh, fast-moving with a wham-bang cadence, and entertaining drama on a serious subject. It's a political campaigning palooza. It's dark and light at the same time, occasionally managing to be funny. It's the best of the worst. And it zings off a few little surprises along the way that I will not reveal -- no spoilers here.

Rob Lowe takes on a big role, Paul Taylor, and he carries if off both with weight and levity. Paul Taylor is a ruthless master media strategist and fix-it guy for hire. He is the Democrats' version of Roger Ailes before Ailes owned Fox News. Paul's character could have been played down to a silly stick figure. Instead, Lowe performs here at his very best in my opinion, his most complicated and believable, and most fun to watch.

Paul's sidekick, Kerstin Rhee, played by rising star Jamie Chung, is a junior associate who pulses with newfound talent, an inquiring mind, and a zest for following Paul where the action is. She has an idealistic streak too. Her ethical sonar reads trouble at times.

Paul also calls in a master on reserve, played by Richard Schiff, making for a nice West Wing moment. Thankfully, Lowe's and Schiff's characters are just different enough from West Wing, and the two actors are strong enough, that the West Wing allusion does not distract, but rather, adds a bonus.

Paul feels a pinch of conscience that leads him to fire off in another direction -- another complicated direction, that is. The ethics on display include lots of bad stuff, but not all black and white. Jamie Chung, for her part, plays the ingenue -- but an unconventional one. Playing the part of a first-generation American of Korean descent, she sparkles with intelligence, intrigue, and self-assured sex appeal with a twist. She likes women but when asked about that, her answer is confidently ambivalent. Her first-generation assimilation to American political culture adds an unspoken smack of discord: she comes quietly to grips with the money-fueled warlike media tactics of Knife Fight, perhaps wondering if this indeed is the ways and means of, well, American politics today. If so, what is she doing?

The cadence of this film is a lot of fun -- successive bang, bang, bang. Because Paul Taylor is a consultant, he's got his hands in several campaigns at once. We're drawn rapidly into each of those campaigns and its characters, and we switch from one to the next and back.

Paul Taylor's media prowess is made credible in this story first by his cavalier counsel and the respect he commands, and also, by the spectacular commercials he produces. We get to see them. Those commercials are part of the story, not ancillary to it. The commercials are like Super Bowl caliber.

The rest of the supporting cast's performances are more mixed, but no one detracts. I especially liked David Harbour as US Senator Stephen Green D; and Brooke Newton as Tawny, a prostitute turned masseuse turned ____ (spoiler avoidance); and Paul Ghiringhelli as conservative tv station mogul Rick Sanchez.

What Wag The Dog [HD] did to make the White House at wartime into a drama of media politics, Knife Fight does for state and federal campaigns. The movie, while providing entertainment, exposes political characters and ruthless, sometimes outlandish media tactics and abuses. It probes and exposes ethical dilemmas and overreach, without being didactic. This is not the Brady Bunch. There is no Mike Brady giving lessons about what's right and wrong at the end of the show. Actually, that may be a disappointment to some reviewers who seem to be looking for either an instructional film ready-made for a high school civics class or a West Wing reunion screenplay penned by Aaron Sorkin. This is neither. Don't look for that here.

Even if this *were* an Aaron Sorkin production which it is not, Sorkin would be the first to tell you his trademark political fiction is not meant to be a brief for good government or good media. When The Newsroom: The Complete First Season made its debut, Sorkin told NPR that: "My sights are set no higher than entertaining you for the hour that I've asked for your attention. This isn't a screed or an op-ed piece of any kind. I'm not trying to change your mind. My goals are exactly the same as the goals of the producers of 'NCIS.' I just want to entertain you."

Judged by that standard, this movie rings up the full five stars in my view. (Incidentally, I don't like Newsroom because, despite Sorkin's intentions, I find it too didactic and idealistic in execution to the point of being maddeningly unreal.) While packing a punch of entertainment, Knife Fight plumbs the netherworld of political media in ways that *might* prompt philosophical reflection if you care about American politics and democratic ideals. For sure, you'll see big problems on the screen -- people doing bad things and getting away with it. You may not see easy answers though, unless you believe we can snap our fingers and get big money and big media buys out of politics.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
'Knife Fight' is no 'West Wing' May 3 2013
By FNDNreview - Published on
Format: DVD
If you look up Harold Lasswell's definition of politics, it will tell you that politics is defined by who gets what, when, and how. Granted, politics was a bit different back in the 1930s and 40s when Lasswell was doing his work - but the principal that he defined still stands true today. The word "politics" is and will (probably) forever be linked to corruption and greed - along with affairs, murder, and any other crime that has been committed by politicians over the years. The bad politicians that have abused their power and standing in the world over the course of human history have given nearly all politicians a bad name - yet not every politician is bad. Despite their personal struggles and shortcomings, men like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy are some of the United States' most adored individuals and considered to have been masters at the art of politicking - so occasionally politics can give people a bad rap simply by association. In the recently released political drama, Knife Fight - juggling politics and personal lives takes center stage, along with the maneuverability involved with executing a successful political campaign.

Knife Fight stars former West Wing actor Rob Lowe as he returns to the semi-fictitious political scene. Paul Turner (Lowe) is a successful campaign strategist running three campaigns at once and with the help of his assistant Kerstin (Jamie Chung), Turner must navigate a Kentucky governor, a California senator, and a doctor turned candidate through the nastiness that accompanies political campaigns. Spinning news cycles to his will, Turner uses his connections and political savvy to walk the fine line of fighting dirty to keep his candidates clean - or as he puts it: "bring a gun to a knife fight." Knife Fight features a star-studded supporting cast, including Carrie-Anne Moss, Julie Bowen, Richard Schiff, and Jennifer Morrison.

Since Lowe has returned to the role of a political strategist, it's only logical to compare this new role to his role on The West Wing - a role that arguably brought him to the height of his success and popularity. As in The West Wing, Lowe is smooth with his deliveries and plays an easily likeable character in a career that makes him question the morality of his actions. Rarely making a mistake, Lowe's character is methodical in his execution and is relentless - while occasionally overly smug with his political maneuvers. Obviously, Rob Lowe is already well-rounded on the inner workings of playing a character in politics - and does such an ambitious job at it that it's difficult to tell his Paul Turner/Sam Seaborn characters apart.

Lowe is clearly the only shining star in this low-budget, nearly TV-worthy film. While several characters play pivotal parts in the film, there is very little memorable acting to be found - mainly due to the poor writing, and being forced to hastily tell a complex story when it deserved more depth. However, the film's memorability comes in the form of a reunion that many of us have been patiently awaiting for far too long - so, for the West Wing fans out there, you're in for a MASSIVE treat. Knife Fight reunites Lowe with his former West Wing cast-mate, Richard Schiff. Lowe and Schiff share several screens together that will bring about a severe case of nostalgia. Their chemistry - stemming from their work on The West Wing - feels so incredibly natural in this film that it will almost feel like a waste, due largely in part to the already mentioned lackluster writing. Regardless, this film will leave you wanting to pop in one of those old West Wing seasons to relive the better times.

The bottom line: nobody will blame you if you completely skip this one. Only West Wing fans need not miss it.

Overall Film Grade: D
Entertaining little political drama, Lowe shines. Oct. 31 2014
By dhart - Published on
Format: DVD
Interesting story of a political strategist, who when running the campaigns of a Kentucky Governor and a California Senator find them both in compromising situations has to resort to dirty campaigns to pull them out of the fire, has trouble with his conscience and takes on a third client. A decent single mother doctor, a friend of a family member, who works with the underprivileged and is an honest woman had approached him to handle a campaign for her to run as Governor and really make a difference. He has turned her down before because of how viciously campaigns are run and what they would do to her. He takes her on to try and right the boat. While this is by no means a great picture, it is entertaining and worth a watch. Rob Lowe is excellent in the role.

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