The Contender - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Contender Reviews

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½ July 26, 2016
Been waiting for ages for a blu-ray or digital of this... still waiting :'(
½ November 12, 2015
Rod Lurie's sharp script and some terrific performances strike a surprisingly even balance of political ideologies in The Contender, although some jarring direction, plot holes and forced pro-liberal scenes derail some sections of the film.
½ June 9, 2015
Tremendous and provocative. A drama that peers into the heart of the political establishment and the road less traveled that involves standing on principles. Jeff Bridges was sensational, Joan Allen mesmerizing, and Gary Oldman even as a scumbag played the part with gritty truth and flare.
June 1, 2015
The performances and story just burst on to the screen and never really slow down.
½ January 30, 2015
There are two vice presidential contenders in "The Contender": Senators Jack Hathaway (William Petersen) and Laine Henson (Joan Allen). The first time we meet Hathaway, he see him attempting to save the life of a woman whose car flies off a bridge and into a nastily cold river. She is killed in the accident, but Hathaway, who was fishing nearby, is heavily publicized as a hero who risked his own well-being for a mere stranger. The introduction of Henson catches her and her husband in the middle of a sexy exchange, with C-SPAN playing in the background. With no other knowledge to your disposal, who would you pick as your next vice president: a hero, or a person that uses C-SPAN as sexy-time music?
"The Contender" grapples with the idea of a sex scandal taking down a respected politician; in the process, no stone is left unturned. While not necessarily a political thriller, the film feels like a thriller because the endless revelations and discoveries are just as exciting as governmentally-based conspiracies. In the political thriller genre, there is a tendency to snatch a real-life event and see how it will turn out on the big screen, and when the story is fictional, you can only sit back and attempt to count the parallels.
"The Contender" comes a few years after the whole Clinton/Lewinsky ordeal - even today, it's as if more people are aware of Clinton's despicable infidelities than fiascos like Watergate. Why? The population is obsessed with sex, and if a national figure is making whoopie with the wrong person at the wrong time at the wrong place, you can forget about the last politically based issue; private matters are so much more interesting.
Take only one look at Laine Henson, and you'll see an intimidating senator that is likely to be the smartest person in the room. But when you do your research, prepare to be surprised at what you find - when she was a freshman in college, Henson allegedly participated in a filthy orgy in order to land a spot in a sorority. In most cases, this type of story would appear on the cover of the latest "National Enquirer," disregarded by everybody and everything.
But veteran power broker Shelly Runyon (Gary Oldman) is the one who leaked the disreputable details; he's severely bitter, as he wanted Hathaway to get the job and is resentful towards Henson's decision to transition from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party early in her career. In return, Henson is placed into numbing public scrutiny, tainting her chances of becoming the president's newfound right-hand man.
Enlisting gender inequality, biased attitudes, and party prejudices to back itself up, "The Contender" is a hard-hitter because it is nearly impossible to disregard. The exact same situation could make headlines tomorrow, for all we know. Certainly, if a respected female politician were to face the same allegations as Henson, things wouldn't be much different. It's likely that there is a Shelly Runyon constantly lurking in the shadows, digging up some serious dirt in order to satisfy their own dying insides, and it's likely that if a man were in an identical position, there would not be as much hatefulness in store. The film unravels with the kick of a sneak attack, mounting and mounting until it knocks us out when we least expect it; the writing is pointed, as sensational as it needs to be.
Without a doubt, "The Contender" wouldn't work without the interplay between Allen and Bridges, two of our generation's best actors giving what can only be described as career best performances. Allen's no-nonsense approach is thoroughly convincing; even in moments when most actresses would take the opportunity to let the emotions of their character spin them into a melodramatic tizzy, Allen stays true to the iron-willed personality of the admirable Henson. Bridges, able to disappear into any role he is given, has the amiable likability of any president we've elected over the years.
"The Contender" is packed full of so many excellent performances and so much astute writing that it is, without a doubt, one of the best political thrillers of the 2000s. The last few minutes, which turn the film into a celluloid "The West Wing," are damaging but easily forgivable, however out of place they may at first feel.
January 24, 2015
Excellent movie; certainly a cut or two above the usual "U.S. President" movie (it's a whole genre now of its own, isn't it?). Clever plot, excellent performances (love how evil Oldman can be when he wants to be; even Sam Elliott breaks out of his habitual approach (who'd name a character 'Kermit'?) I've re-watched it at least twice.
½ January 19, 2015
The ending is ludicrous, but Joan Allen and Jeff Bridges are both extremely good.
December 16, 2014
Great flick. Not five start material but close. :)
½ November 13, 2014
***Due to the recent RT changes that have basically ruined my past reviews, I am mostly only giving a rating rather than a full review.***
½ October 25, 2014
A tense political thriller is marred by a grandiose speech ending that borders on ludicrous.
½ October 15, 2014
Te acting and movie was much better than a 1.5 but I gave it the low rating because the VP contender was anti 2nd Amendment and felt guns should be taken from the people and she also promoted the US military all over the planet. If I gave the movir a higher rating felt like it would be my condoning violating the US Constitution and I am anti-war.
½ August 29, 2014
A riveting political thriller that doesn't take the easy way out.
July 2, 2014
An engaging, political film with superb performances by Joan Allen and Gary Oldman. It might not have been a hit, but it's an entertaining story and a solid film overall.
May 24, 2014
A little too coincidentally one-sided. Too convenient for what happened on both sides.
May 13, 2014
Sanctimonious liberal politics disguised as nobility in response to the President Clinton impeachment. This political thriller, written and directed by Rod Lurie, stars Joan Allen as a Vice-Presidential nominee who undergoes a rigorous confirmation hearing as the result of a sex scandal from her past. Allen is presented as a heroically honorable Joan of Arc for refusing to answer the questions and the villainous Republican senator (Gary Oldman), leading the interrogation, is presented as a hypocritical mudslinger whose actions are compared to McCarthyism. In terms of its politics the movie is painfully naive and it expresses a feeling of self-admiration toward the liberal idealism espoused. Despite these reservations, the drama is often compelling, but Lurie cheats us with a melodramatic resolution involving a rival candidate (William Petersen) that is a cop-out. Lurie undercuts his own premise by embracing the integrity of personal character but claiming personal lives private. He then concludes with the President (Jeff Bridges) giving a corn ball speech of political admonishment that could make Frank Capra cringe. Bridges is very funny and forthright in a Clinton caricature. He's constantly preoccupied with eating. With Sam Elliott, Christian Slater, Philip Baker Hall, Saul Rubinek, Kathryn Morris, Mike Bender, Mariel Hemingway.
½ April 21, 2014
Es wäre ein sehr interessantes und spannendes Thema, wenn es nicht so trocken erzählt wäre. Die Darsteller sind gut ausgewählt. Vor allem Gary Oldman spielt ein richtiges Arschloch! Das in der Politik mit Intrigen und Macht gespielt wird und Minderwertigkeiten wie Frauen in höchsten Ebenen thematisiert werden, bleibt alles schlussendlich völlig belanglos. Man hätte mehr Tiefgründigkeit und Drama einbauen sollen. Ein Politthriller der nicht so wichtig ist!
February 1, 2014
While the acting was good, it was extremely disappointing that all the villains were conservatives. Hollywood simply can't help themselves! The ending was stupid and weak too. I would not recommend this movie. It stole 2 hours of my life.
November 30, 2013
This plodding but well acted political drama examines the double standards placed on women with regard to politics & sexuality.
October 28, 2013
What an amazing political thriller The Contender is! Going through issues including but not limited to a tremendous double-standard between men and women in politics, what issues are and are not relevant politically, and political assassination without violence. The first woman to receive the nomination for the recently deceased Vice President is solid on issues but may or may not have participated in a sexual indiscretion during her college days which, while completely irrelevant to her political beliefs, is used in addition to other douchebaggery tactics to destroy her life. The ending is a triumph, showing how pieces fit together into the whole. This is a political film that is not bipartisan which isn't a weakness but a storytelling device. It's not to say that Republicans are evil and Democrats are Godsend but shows problems between the parties and how they are destined to be at constant odds, no matter the issues and what is at stake for the American people. The Contender has a wicked sense of humor and not a boring moment. It is an amazing thriller in that it shows how things would happen as well as what should happen. It is also about dignity and those who will not sacrifice it. If you are in any way interested in American politics, you cannot let this brilliant thriller slip through your fingers.
October 13, 2013
Uh, propaganda. The actress was good; but this is nothing more than propaganda. And transparent propaganda at that. I turned it off before it was finished because CLEARLY this impossible woman was going to be some creampuff who never made mistakes but "honorably" covered for others blah blah blah. Point: it doesn't matter. WRONG, movie: it matters. If you're going to be "hard-hitting", hit the REAL truth: show the corporate sponsors of these asshole politicians TELLING THEM what to say. Otherwise, I'll just fucking pass. Yes, it was slick enough to keep me interested for half the movie, but slick propaganda IS STILL just that: propaganda. There is no such woman (or MAN) as that in this fallen-ass country. Put some CEOs in your propaganda if you want it believable.
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