New (well, newish, it was released in August) from director / co-writer Mora Stephens (“Conventioneers”, “Devil’s Pond”) is a film that’s been described as a political thriller, “Zipper”.
South Carolina prosecutor Sam Ellis (Patrick Wilson – “Home Sweet Hell“, “Stretch”) is a man going places. He has a very successful track record and is known for his family values stance, wanting to protect the innocent and punish those guilty of breaking the law.
His wife Jeannie (Lena Headey – “The Purge”, “300”) is a successful lawyer in her own right who has given up work to raise their son James and support her husband’s career and ambitions. She is well placed to do this as her father is a powerful man who will throw his weight behind Sam in his quest to enter political life.
During after work drinks after having won his latest case, Sam finds himself drawn to office intern Dalia (Dianna Agron – “The Family”, “I Am Number Four”) but walks away reputation intact before anything more than a brief drunken clinch happens.
However, when he has to interview Ellie Green (Elena Satine – “Magic City”, “Revenge”), an escort who is to be a witness for one of his cases, he progresses from his habitual use of internet pornography to checking out a high-class escort service.
When Jeannie takes James away for a weekend while Sam has to work he succumbs to temptation, buys a pay-as-you-go mobile phone and books an escort from the agency. He meets the escort, Christy (Alexandra Breckenridge – “Family Guy”, “She’s The Man”), in a hotel and almost comes to his senses and leaves but is eventually seduced.
Determined that this should be a one-time thing Sam disposes of the mobile on his way home, where he is surprised to find that Jeannie and James have returned early. Sam manages to cover his tracks but it’s not long before he’s purchased another mobile and is arranging a succession of appointments, always using an assumed name and always with a different girl.
When the escort agency is suddenly raided Sam is in an ideal position to take an interest in the case and try to protect both the girls and himself. Meanwhile his father-in-law and colleagues are pushing Sam to run for Congress tough with campaign manager George Hiller (Richard Dreyfuss – “Jaws”, “RED”) is brought in to make things happen.
Reporter Nigel Coaker (Ray Winstone – “The Sweeney”, “Beowulf”), an old friend of Jeannie and her father, agrees to write a piece on Sam to help his campaign. When Coaker discovers Sam’s secret, however, the glorious political future that Jeannie envisages for them is suddenly under threat…
Although this has been described as a political thriller, I’d say that political drama would perhaps be a better description. There are some very good things about this film. The moment when Sam walks into the conference room to meet the escort witness Ellie is excellently shown almost as if the camera is Sam’s eyes as it lingers of Ellie’s legs for a moment before taking in the subtle but still suggestive motion of her smoothing down her dress when she stands. Equally, when Sam later has a conversation with campaign manager George but becomes distracted by the sight of a woman across the room George’s voice becomes muffled so that again it’s like being inside Sam’s head.
On the negative side, I felt that events towards the end of the film happened rather suddenly and the ending was less than satisfactory.
The question, as asked by Sam during the movie “Why do we hold politicians to a higher standard when it comes to marriage and adultery?” is central to the story but ultimately goes unanswered. That said, it does lead to some interesting conversations so can be said to be a success in that respect.
A decent film, with Wilson in particular providing a strong and believable performance as the increasingly conflicted Sam, but still the lingering feeling that with a better final section the movie could have been so much more satisfying…