Knife Fight Reviews
Negatives: The film suffers most from a lack of definition. It's supposed to be somewhat satirical, yet there's no real satire and it seems to be straightforward and in earnest. It's supposed to be political, but honestly it feels like a rom-com without the rom. I honest to god kept expecting that Penelope and Paul would end up together because somehow she'd reawaken his idealism and pull him out of the cynical slump he'd found himself in. But nope.
Worst of all, the film never bothered defining which plot was the A-plot. Where is the audience supposed to allot the majority of it's emotional focus? Because the seemingly most "important" plotline (with Penelope) gets far too little time for being the primary arc.
In a well defined film, the plotlines with the senator and the governor would've been set into the background and used more to establish Paul's character rather than taking up so much of the movie.
The film doesn't even really define who's point of view it's from. We begin the film with voiceover narration from Kerstin (Jamie Chung) telling us all about Paul (Rob Lowe) as if this is her movie. Yet, Paul is our lead protagonist. And we never use the voiceover trick again, so it's just a random four minutes of narration that doesn't fit with the tone of the rest of the movie.
There are about five different films in this movie. There's a rom-com (Penelope and Paul), there's a lovely film about a young woman coming out of the closet and breaking stereotypes while working in a political job under a boss like Paul, there's a story about a political "fixer" who goes too far and causes a disaster that makes him rethink everything, there's a witty satire about the ridiculous things that go on behind the scenes during an election, and there's a darker Machiavellian drama about a fixer who will do anything to win because he truly believes he has to.
There's not even a well defined sense of what's good and bad, right and wrong in the movie's on moral universe. On one hand, Paul feels terribly guilty about pushing a story that drove a former intern to attempt suicide. On the other, when presented with the knowledge that Kerstin and Dmitris paid a homeless man to wield a knife and put it to the throat of some poor nurse just so Penelope could rush in to save the day (with the cameras catching every second), he's ecstatic about it.
Really? We'll get into attempted suicide and hit the audience with the reality of the consequences for the intern, but we're not gonna talk about two campaign staffers (essentially) staging an attack, traumatizing an innocent nurse, and wounding their own candidate for publicity?
When you have five different stories vying for dominance in a script that doesn't even put a line between right and wrong, you get a messy movie.
Positives: Performances by the cast. The acting carried this movie. Even if the plot and tone were a mess, the actors were compelling to watch.
Jamie Chung and Carrie Ann Moss particularly hit it out of the park. Jamie Chung entirely sold me on her character. Enough that I honestly could've made a movie out of just her.
Carrie Ann Moss made me forget every other role she's been in. She *was* Penelope and nothing but. I know an actor has done their job right when I finish the film and go, "oh, wait, wasn't she also..." because during that performance, there was nothing else but that character in that movie.
Rob Lowe is always watchable on screen. He's good at what he does. He knows how to get chemistry going with other performers around him. However, the ill definition of the script got the better of him. At times, he seemed to slip back into being Sam Seaborn (West Wing) but without all the things that made Sam Seaborn so utterly compelling. Other times, it seemed like he wanted to be a harsher, more ruthless character (like Frank Underwood in House of Cards) but never showed enough teeth to do so.
Richard Schiff's part as Dmitris didn't quite convince me. I didn't get any sense of the character. I just saw Richard Schiff putting in an appearance in Rob Lowe's movie. But he's always fun to see on screen and the mini-West Wing reunion was nice in and of itself. I confess to sort of squinting and trying to see a scene with Sam Seaborn talking with Toby Ziegler about political strategy in a restaurant.
Eric McCormack's southern accent irritated me the entire film. I'm from that part of the world, thank you. Either do the accent right or don't do it at all. You can have governors that aren't natively from their state (see also: The Governator). That's a tidewater/coastal south accent at best and it's done badly.
Overall: It's watchable and entertaining enough. It's better if you don't think about it too hard and just enjoy the actors doing their thing.
"Knife Fight" has certain things going for it, including a good cast, especially a charismatic Rob Lowe in the lead and Saffron Burrows who steals whatever brief scenes she is in. And it does make some good points about the way campaigns focus on sex instead of the issues, while admittedly not bringing up anything about campaign financing. Just as Paul lectures Penelope rightfully about politics being a knife fight, he somehow fails to bring up that unless one is really, really privileged, one should not start out one's political career on the state level. That's not to mention the movie failing to adequately juggle its three storylines nor making much sense in the end..
I would recommend to watch it at least once. a good performance for Rob Lowe and Jamie Chung
Not your typical political kinda movie, Third Act got a little better, better than what I originally expected.
Eric McCormack also does a great supporting job here. So does Carrie Anne Moss, Richard Schiff, and Jamie Chung.
I definitely recommend this film.
The drama follows a political strategist (played by Rob Lowe) and his assistant (Chung) as they navigate a trio of election campaigns rife with cheating husbands, blackmail and even an actual knife fight. Our hero is successfully juggling all three clients and very often questions whether or not to take the high road... while the ugly side of his work begins to haunt him. We can see how politics is really played... forget what you think how it should be - it is NEVER happening that way. Take any of the politicians (even Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln or John F. Kennedy) and ask why are some of them the United States' most adored individuals... maybe because they were masters at the art of juggling politics and personal lives while keeping an image for the masses.
Best performance was undoubtedly given by Jamie Chung, who is competitive by nature, and has finally proven that she can handle mouthfuls of dramatic dialogue or "something smart," as she calls it. It is a movie for all her fans, but do not expect that it will puncture the balloons of political hypocrisy.
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.