December 10, 2016 -- This is a movie that moves fast. It challenges the audience to keep up because the main character is a person who is always one step ahead of everybody else.
Jessica Chastain of “The Martian” stars as Elizabeth Sloane, a superstar lobbyist in Washington, D.C. She likes a challenge and will do whatever it takes to win. She uses illegal wiretaps and surveillance, she blackmails people, she bribes people, she threatens people, she seduces people – whatever it takes.
While she is at the top of her profession, her personal life is a shambles. She has no friends. She is a stunning red haired beauty who hires male escorts for sex. She barely sleeps. She takes uppers to stay alert. She barely has time to eat, saying if there was a pill substitute for food, she would take it.
The story begins with Sloane laughing off a prominent pro-gun organization. This angers her boss, George Dupont (played by Sam Waterston of the “Law & Order” TV series) who desperately wants the lucrative gun lobby business. When asked why she rejected the gun organization, Sloane said it was the right thing to do. While Sloane will do anything to win, she also has a strong sense of right and wrong when it comes to causes she will, and won't lobby for, or against. She is not a simple character.
Another lobbying firm hears what Sloane did, and comes calling. The head of the lobbying firm, Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong of “Kingsman: The Secret Service”) wants Sloane to go up against the powerful gun lobbyists to help pass a bill in the U.S. Senate that would strengthen laws for background checks on those who purchase guns. Right now, those laws are so lax, that even suspected terrorists can buy guns.
Sloane quits her job and goes to work for Schmidt's agency, taking most of her assistants with her, with the exception of Jane Molloy (Alison Pill of “Hail, Caesar!”) who stays behind, saying it is impossible to beat the gun lobby. Sloane ends up working against the lobbyists in her old firm, including Jane Molloy and the formidable Pat Conners (Michael Stuhlbarg of “Steve Jobs”).
The resulting battle for votes in Congress reminded me of the old “Spy vs. Spy” cartoons in Mad Magazine. Rodolfo Schmidt has his hands full trying to rein in Sloane when she spends money wildly and hires ex-CIA operatives to illegally spy on people. Sloane says it is no good talking to Senators who are uncooperative. Instead, you talk to the head of the biggest employer in the senator's district. Convince them to lobby the senator, then the senator will listen.
The fight over votes extends from senators, to lobbyists, to corporations to grassroots organizations to media debates, all the while trying to avoid falling into various legal traps and using loopholes in the lobbying laws to wine and dine senators and send them on luxurious trips. This game is very complex and the legal rules are even more complex. All this happens at a very fast pace.
While most movies these days are pretty slow and pretty dumb, this is a movie about very smart people trying to outsmart each other, and it never slows down for the viewer to catch up. It has drama, humor, suspense and top-notch acting. This is a very slick and fast movie about how things really work in the nation's capitol (except the gun registration law in this movie would not even get to the Senate, let alone pass if if got there in today's political climate).
Director John Madden (“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) and writer Jonathan Perera here have crafted a fast, witty, hard-hitting story that is aimed at adults. It probably won't make much money, given the way movies are marketed and distributed these days, but it is like a breath of fresh air. This film rates a B.
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