KNIFE FIGHT (Bill Guttentag). 99 minutes. Opens Friday (January 25). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NN
There are few things as disappointing as a political movie that treats banal insights like major revelations. Knife Fight, the debut feature by documentary director Bill Guttentag, is a breathless political satire (at least I think it's supposed to be a satire) about a genius campaign strategist who'll do anything to win, not because he believes in his candidates but because he doesn't like to lose.
Yup, Knife Fight wants you to be shocked - shocked! - that politics might attract mercenary cynics. I'm more shocked that Guttentag and his co-writer, Chris Lehane, have apparently never watched television or left their homes, given how incredibly naive their movie is about, well, everything.
Rob Lowe stars as San Francisco strategist Paul Turner, a BlackBerry-toting charmer who smears, cheats and compromises his integrity on a regular basis to keep his candidates ahead of scandals, setbacks and speed bumps. Juggling the campaigns of a California state senator (David Harbour) and a Kentucky governor (Eric McCormack), both of whom face sex scandals that could end their careers, Turner also considers helping an idealistic San Francisco doctor (Carrie-Anne Moss) mount a California gubernatorial run against overwhelming odds.
Lowe's become a charming, engaging actor in middle age, and the supporting cast does its best to liven up the utterly generic script, but Knife Fight doesn't have one interesting thing to say about its subject or its characters.
"Boy, politics, huh?" is not a pitch.