Jul 21, 2014

Review: Knife Fight (2012)

American politics have the potential for some pretty interesting films. There's no shortage of dirt and thrills to keep everyone happy. Whether it's a political movie set in the present day or in the past, there will always be something of interest. Knife Fight is supposed to reveal the ugly underbelly of current political advising and it's actually co-written by Chris Lahane who was at one time Al Gore's spokesman. The man must have some pretty good insight into the whole process wouldn't you say?

Director Bill Guttentag has done some interesting work in the past and he's been able to assemble a semi-respectable cast of TV and film actors. The Ides of March which came out the year before is easy to compare Knife Fight with and well, let's just say that Knife Fight is clearly the one that brought the knife in this particular gun fight. The underbelly of politics is never very well explored and the story is terribly developed.


Genre: drama
Directed by: Bill Guttentag
Produced by: Catherine Davila, Daniel Davila
Written by: Bill Guttentag, Chris Lehane
Music by: Sister Bliss
Running time: 100 minutes
Production company: Divisadero Pictures
Distributed by: IFC Films
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $7,000,000
Box office: $5,661 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Rob Lowe, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jamie Chung, Richard Schiff, Amanda Crew, Julie Bowen, Eric McCormack, Jennifer Morrison, Saffron Burrows, Shirley Manson, Davey Havok, Chiara de Luca, Kurt Yaeger, Brooke Newton




Paul Turner (Robe Lowe) is a political strategist who is currently working with three clients in various states of election or re-election. With him he has Kerstin Rhee (Jamie Chung) who's new to the game but probably won't be staying around in the long haul. A series of unavoidable crises are seemingly easily handled by Paul but a certain one leaves a bad taste in his mouth. Paul begins to question if what he's doing is really the right thing.


The story of Knife Fight is its biggest weakness. Most of the characters and a lot of the situations just seem like really easy clichés to make. Because Paul Turner is working with three clients, (more like two for most of the film) there's never enough time to actually explore how he's feeling about everything until it's too late. (Spoilers) When he starts feeling bad about the "girl he dragged through the mud" attempting to commit suicide, it plays like a sappy drama where he disappears off the face of the earth to ponder everything in his life before coming back and wanting to change how he does everything. It's silly and plain unbelievable. (End Spoilers)

The way the film is shot is kind of in a documentary style which I'm sure is to emphasis the "real and gritty" nature of what is being shown. In the end it's a failed experiment that just makes the movie look cheap and unprofessional. Knife Fight looks like it belongs on TV and I think it would work a lot better because the story could've been more fleshed out if it were a series instead of just an hour and a half movie anyway.

I think that the story could've have benefited from the elimination of one of Paul's clients. That way, there would be more time to develop the story properly and maybe get some more realistic story elements. Maybe it's too much to ask for the complete removal of all the dumb and amateurish political ads? Again, for a political film that features a former spokesman for Al Gore, how comes everything is so cliché?

Knife Fight wastes a pretty good performance from Rob Lowe who grew on me as a political strategist. As an exploration into the dirty world of politics, Bill Guttentag hardly gets a speck of dirt on his hands and there's nothing particularly thrilling or dramatic about anything. It's all just one big missed opportunity.



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