State of Play Reviews
It's kind of hard to follow at points, and has some pacing issues, but overall 'State of Play' is an acceptable mystery thriller, which is helped by good performances from all the main cast.
Inspired (and overshadowed) by the BBC's 2003 six-part mini-series, the newly relocated across the Atlantic and compressed to feature length gets off to a strong start.
We follow a young purse snatcher's desperate attempt to flee through grimy back alleys of Washington DC, however once safe he is shot execution style for his troubles and surprisingly so is a passing Pizza delivery boy.
The two murders draw the attention of Washington Globe's old-school investigate reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crow). Cunningly utilizing his easy rapport with familiar cops squeezes out extra information playing games like confirm or deny.
Also in news is the apparent suicide of a congressional aid to rising-star congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) who coincidentally is the college room mate of Cal McAffrey.
When Collins overreacts after being informed of the aide's death, assigned to the case perky and ambitious blogger Dela Frye (Rachel McAdams) overzealously approaches McAffrey for any dirt on his friend.
When the pair are thrown together by The Globe's editor to find the real story behind what happened with Collins and the intern, pieces being to start aligning the two journalists seemingly unrelated cases.
In an attempt not to give away too much of the interweaving plot threads, here are some of the basics. McAffrey has previously bedded his friend Congressman Collins wife Anne (Robyn Wright Penn), Collins flagship case is centered around one companies dealing with privatizing homeland security and McAffrey illegal ideas of interrogation cross the line between journalist and detective (but in films like these no one ever remembers to look at the lines)
The story, although cleverly done is awfully stereotypical and predictable. From the start it is clear as to which direction you will be taken and if you observe the characters interactions in the first 20 minutes there is no more intrigue.
Noticeably the second choice picks of soft-around-the-waste unkempt Crow and polished wet-behind-the-ears Affleck only half worked (initially Brad Pitt and Edward Norton respectively). Jeff Daniels short performance as one of Collins' advisers is strained, and Jason Batemans cocaine addicted PR smart ass routine is overdone.
Mirren's sex changed character originally played by the wonderful Bill Nighly has certain unresponsiveness delivering obviously male orientated lines and the grossly under utilized talents of Robyn Wright Penn and clichéd idealistic character by Rachel McAdams simply leaves the film lacking.
The Verdict: The lack of stomach-clenching tension is clear; the filmmaker's inability to adapt a tight script and the actor's fruitless attempt to salvage what is left leaves the conclusion that this type of film unless made properly should be remembered as the style of the 80's, it just doesn't cut it anymore.
Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 05/06/2009