The Contender

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President Evans (Bridges) needs to appoint a new VP. Aware of the importance of the women's vote, he favours Democrat Senator Hanson (Allen) over Governor Hathaway (Petersen), recently in the news as a heroic would-be lifesaver and himself preferred by Republican congressman Runyon (Oldman). Investigating Hanson's suitability, Runyon obtains photos suggestive of a sexually scandalous past; but insisting on her right to privacy, she refuses to dignify the charge with a denial, thereby setting the scene for all manner of mud-slinging, murky deals and Machiavellian scheming. In the final reels story and characters start turning somersaults so that Hanson and Evans suddenly end up too good to be true, with Runyon a mere villain. This facile endorsement of Clintonian peccadillos is emphasised by some awful sermonising and an embarrassingly heroic score. Until then, however, the performances by a superb cast are uniformly terrific, and the writing is mostly sharp, witty and admirably sceptical about the manoeuvring on all sides.

Release details

Duration: 126 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Rod Lurie
Screenwriter: Rod Lurie
Cast: Gary Oldman
Joan Allen
Jeff Bridges
Christian Slater
Sam Elliott
William Petersen
Saul Rubinek
Philip Baker Hall
Mariel Hemingway
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