The first quarter of the calendar is generally pretty scarce when it comes to quality films aimed for adults. That fact makes the new movie, “State of Play,” even more of a treat than it already is - a smart and intriguing thriller that features a quality cast and some nice dramatic moments.
Based on a BBC mini-series, “State of Play” tells the story of an up-and-coming congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) caught up in controversy when his research assistant dies in an apparent suicide.
With her death comes the discovery of an affair between the deceased and Collins - just the tip of a major conspiracy waiting to be uncovered.
Enter Collins’ long-time friend Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), a veteran investigative reporter for a Washington newspaper. McAffrey reluctantly teams up with one of the newspaper’s young Internet reporters (Rachel McAdams), determined to uncover the truth behind the young lady’s death and clear his friend’s name.
Crowe is the anchor of a strong cast that really makes “State of Play” click. Some of the best scenes involve Crow and his editor (played by Academy award winner Helen Mirren) debating the moral center of the film - what is more important in today’s instant media world, accuracy or being the first to report? As a newspaper person, it was an argument that obviously held my interest, but I think non-newspaper employees will find it interesting as well.
Jason Bateman is also very good in a small role that is very important to the film’s mystery and best left unspoiled in this review.
The film does have its flaws. I thought the plot twists got a little too convoluted by the end and I really wish the film had stopped about one twist sooner than it did.
Still, I really enjoyed “State of Play” and have a deep appreciation for a film willing to challenge and entertain in a season when challenging and entertaining is very hard to find.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Notorious” (B) - the solid biopic about the rise and tragic fall of rapper Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace.
“Notorious” follows Wallace’s rise in the streets of Brooklyn, selling drugs at the age of 12 and his eventual arrest for weapons charges at age 17.
While in jail, Wallace (played by little known rapper Jamal Woolard) begins to find his calling - by developing the skills he picked up rapping on the streets. Once he gets out of prison he inks a recording deal and becomes the protege of Sean Combs (Derek Luke) - eventually becoming a multi-platinum artist before his death in 1997 at age 24.
I have had a passing interest in Wallace’s music, but I really wouldn’t consider myself a fan. Still, I have had interest in his death along with fellow rapper Tupac Shakur (the deaths have taken on a life of their own, with stories of a rap war between the duo’s respective labels) and was a big fan of the documentary that provided insight into their deaths.
“Notorious” gave me a greater appreciation for Wallace, a flawed young man who had talent and touched a lot of people in a short time.
The film is at its best when it deals with his home life with his mother (Angela Bassett’s best performance in a while) and the many women of his life - including his eventual wife, Faith Evans (Antonique Smith).
But even when the movie drags (Luke’s Combs leaves a little to be desired) I remained interested, largely due to Woolard. Making his acting debut, Woolard is very good and really makes you care about Wallace - even when Wallace is at his worst. It’s a breakout performance that should open the door for Woolard if he has any desire to continue his acting career.
“Notorious” is rated R for pervasive language, some strong sexuality including dialogue and nudity, and for drug content and is now available on DVD.
— Want to know sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton’s thoughts on “The Soloist,” “Obsessed” and “Fighting”? Micheal is now on twitter. Visit twitter.com/mcompton428 to get the latest updates on everything about movies (and the Bowling Green Hot Rods).