Scandal and Washington D.C. go together like peanut butter and jelly. State of Play, a crime-thriller directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King Of Scotland) stars Russell Crowe as an investigative reporter for the Washington Globe and Ben Affleck as a congressman from Pennsylvania. State of Play is based on a popular 2003 British 6-part miniseries written by Paul Abbott. State of Play (the TV series) may have been a big hit in the UK, but State of Play (the movie) is a big disappointment here in the U.S.
Cal McAffrey (Crowe) is busy working on a story about the death of a purse snatcher and pizza delivery guy when a bigger story breaks. Sonia Baker, a research assistant for Congressman Stephen Collins (Affleck), dies in an apparent suicide and it comes out that the two were involved in a romantic relationship. Since McAffrey and Collins are friends and former college classmates, inexperienced reporter Della Frye (Rachel McAdams, The Notebook) comes to Cal looking for information when she is given the story to cover by their cutthroat editor Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren, Inkheart). Robin Wright Penn (Forrest Gump) stars as Anne Collins, the congressman’s wife.
When Cal discovers that his story and Della’s are connected, he takes the young reporter under his wing. They soon uncover a tangled web of events that include a hitman, corporate corruption and political backstabbing. Was Sonia’s death a suicide? If not, who wanted her dead? And why?
In a role similar to his truth and justice seeking character from American Gangster, Russell Crowe has no trouble playing the scruffy journalist, Cal McAffery. His performance is believable, but not that enjoyable. Ben Affleck is quite sufficient in his portrayal of a sniveling government official. As a relentless editor, Helen Mirren breaths fire into her offering.
The most enjoyable acting comes from Jeff Daniels and Jason Bateman in their brief appearances. Jeff Daniels is Senator George Fergus, who is suppose to be Stephen Collins mentor but he turns out to be something much worse. Daniels plays his part with such arrogance and is so authentic as a phony politician, he easily makes you understand why people have such a strong distrust and disliking for the government.
Jason Batemen is Dominic Foy, a strung-out public relations worker who is a part of this messy plot. Batemen is very convincing as a fast speaking salesman who is out for himself. Dominic’s snobby demeanor and I’m-better-than-you attitude makes you hope he gets what coming to him and you feel that way because of Jason Batemen’s fine acting. More Daniels and Batemen would have greatly improved this movie that otherwise had characters that were not that interesting.
Rachel McAdams should be glad that her name appears on the movie poster because otherwise she doesn’t offer much to be noticed for. The only real emotion she shows in the whole movie is her scene at the hospital and when she stands up for yourself to her editor. Other than that, she is present but not accounted for much else.
The screenplay written by Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom), Tony Gilroy (Duplicity) and Billy Ray (Flightplan) may be riveting and suspenseful for some, but to me it was confusing and unexciting. All the twist and turns made me feel like I was back in calculus class. I lost track of what was going on much like I did when my calculus teacher was explaining a new concept. Confusion breeds boredom. That was me watching this movie.
Good TV does not always translate into good movies and State of Play is a perfect example.