Halloween may still be a month a way, but Republican moviegoers my find their spines chilled at this depiction of Sean Penn as a liberal Southern politician who galvanizes the base and wins on a platform of universal health care and taxing the rich. (James Carville is one of the producers, and you can tell it's one of his fantasies.)
Seems like every year around this time, a group of serious, mostly British actors decide to affect exaggerated Southern accents and don period costumes, in the service of making some popular novel look ridiculously affected onscreen, and that's exactly what's going on here. Jude Law's take on the accent is, well, interesting, James Gandolfini's is atrocious and Anthony Hopkins doesn't even bother.
Penn's performance is a standout, but, unfortunately, the movie isn't really about him--the main character is Law's amoral journalist, who initially covers the campaign and then joins it, without particularly clear motives. Steve Zaillian (A Civil Action) directs like a tired stump speechwriter, repeating key scenes, again and again, for emphasis and running twice as long.
--Luke Y. Thompson