OUR BRAND IS CRISIS (5 out of 10) Directed by David Gordon Green, Written by Peter Straughan, based on the documentary of the same name by Rachel Boynton; Starring Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Joaquim de Almeida, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy, Zoe Kazan; Rated R for "language including some sexual references"; Running time 107 minutes; In wide release October 30, 2015.
About a decade ago, I worked professionally in politics, including a stint at a high-profile political consulting firm doing polling. Politics, a contact sport for nerds, is fun. "Our Brand is Crisis" is not. It, in fact, sucks most of the joys and shenanigans of political campaigns and turns them into dull, predictable tripe.
In 2002, professional political consultants who had previously helped elect the Clintons and numerous others in America took on a longshot presidential candidate in Bolivia and worked to get him elected. In 2005, a documentary was released about this election, also called "Our Brand is Crisis." That was a better film, as were a handful of others that explored the world of political consultants (Wag the Dog, Primary Colors, Spinning Boris). Especially after a heavy-handed ending that lands with a thud, you're left wondering "What did I just watch? And why?"
Sandra Bullock plays "Calamity Jane" Bodine, a political consultant brought out of semi-retirement mostly because her greatest rival Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton) is running the campaign of the opposition. Their uncharismaticplutocrat candidate is hardly a man of the people, but they have to do their best through dirty tricks and playing to his strengths to take him from 5th place to 1st. And shenanigans ensue. Unfortunately, not enough of them to make this a really entertaining film.
What few shenanigans there are occasionally turn out funny, like a commercial shoot involving a llama. But some of them end up being somewhat lame.
The best part of the film is smarmy Billy Bob Thornton, and there's far too little of him in this. The same is true of idealistic true believer Anthony Mackie. Much better characters and performances who have far too little to do in this movie. Sandra Bullock's performance isn't bad, her "fixer" character of Calamity Jane just isn't near as interesting as the script thinks she is.
This film was tailor-made to be entertaining to me, and it simply wasn't. That's the kiss of death for any film.
5 out of 10