Dave's Rating:

2.0

...streamlined and stripped of complication

Who’s In It: Kate Beckinsale, Matt Dillon, Angela Bassett, Alan Alda, Vera Farmiga, David Schwimmer, Courtney B. Vance, Noah Wyle

The Basics: Kate Beckinsale is not Judith Miller, the journalist who spent time in jail for not revealing her sources, and Vera Farmiga (The Departed, remember? She was The Woman in that one) is not Valerie Plame, the CIA operative whose cover was blown by Miller. This is not about that scandal at all. Except that it is. And it’s also a ladies-behind-bars drama. And a courtroom drama. And a bad-mommy drama. So much drama.

What’s The Deal: This movie-ready fictionalized version of Plamegate is so streamlined and stripped of complication that it doesn’t really have much to say until fashion-obsessed, Zegna-promoting defense lawyer Alan Alda (he actually clocks the label of one of Beckinsale's outfits) comes along and explains why journalists’ First Amendment rights are so vital to democracy. And that’s nice and all, but everything else around that little speech near the end of the film seems to be about Beckinsale and Farmiga reassuring everyone that they can do their jobs and still be good mothers. In fact, getting outed as covert CIA seems less annoying to Farmiga than being kicked off the elementary school volunteer-parent duty roster. She liked reading to the kids and doing all the voices, she says.

What It’s Missing: About 80 percent of the scenery-chomping performances and hyperbolic dialogue of earlier Rod Lurie movies. In the past few years I’ve been a big fan of his nutty political thrillers, like the nuclear-apocalypse-in-a-snow-bound-diner freakout Deterrence, or The Contender, the one where Joan Allen is accused during a congressional confirmation hearing of having had a naughty past full of group sex. Characters in those movies throw insane, spittle-flecked barbs at each other. The only moment like that here is when Farmiga hisses at Beckinsale that she’s an “unpatriotic little [really R-rated word]” and that she’ll wind up in the bowels of hell. In its place are violent women’s prison smackdowns.

Why You’ll Like It Anyway: Because Lurie’s deck-stacking impulses, in the form of Matt Dillon’s hiss-worthy, super-mean, watered-down-Foghorn Leghorn special prosecutor who wants to make his name by throwing the book at Beckinsale, or David Schwimmer playing against type as her waffling jerkface husband, help make for guiltily enjoyable junk. Even better, it’s junk with a serious-faced, point-making agenda.

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