A “shouty” film about political corruption in Louisiana, as so called “hick” Willie Stark rises to the roll of Governor despite serious political opposition. This is a potluck of political intrigue, family secrets and a noir-style whodunnit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t all fit together, and the translation from its literary roots seems to have left the flick a jumble of conflicting story threads.
Sean Penn’s performance is quite intense, and his orations are fairly spectacular (if a bit repetitive). Jude Law seemed a bit out of sorts, and Anthony Hopkins is wasted in a roll clearly more robust in the source material. Kate Winslet remains as radiant as ever, and her accent was a little more stable than her countrymen. Even James Gandolfini plays a roll, a bit more slapstick and buffoonishnish than his (type cast) Tony Soprano roll. I found it hardest of all to see him in the roll he played, due in no small part to a strange, snivelling performance. He’s a hell of an actor, I just didn’t like him in this flick (he deserves better than playing the fat guy who succumbs to a pratfall into pigshit).
In the end, the film just felt like a political speech – a bit too long, a bit heavy handed with the rhetoric. Despite some very pretty, “clever” shots (the last scene comes to mind as one very carefully constructed), the film as a whole fails to ignite the audience in quite the way it wants to.