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Rated PG-13 · 128 minutes · 2006

The new, James Carville-produced filmization of Robert Penn Warren's 1946 Pulitzer Prize winner returns to the 1930s and the legacy of bullying populist/Louisiana governor Huey Long. Here, the rise of Willie Stark (Sean Penn) from small-time pot-stirrer to party stooge to self-made demagogue to, finally, a people's leader easily given over to the dark side of legislative malfeasance and backroom skulduggery is recounted from the perspective of his cynical, ethically vacant right-hand man, Jack Burden (Jude Law, who seems less fatalistically drunk than just uninterested). Writer-director Steven Zaillian proceeds in typical adapt-a-big-book fashion, condensing, telegraphing, and boiling down drama into info-bytes, amid far too much smoky backlighting and a James Horner score that's so self-important, you want to take out the timpanis with a grenade launcher. It's a naive project politically -- pitching a fit over lost idealism seems thin once you realize that the massive scale of corporate wrongdoing easily overshadows, in cost and blood, any governor's graft habit or blackmail schemes. Penn hardly helps, wrapping his pinched frown around an unintelligible Louisiana drawl and swinging his arms like an autistic evangelist.
Official Site:
Director: Steven Zaillian
Writer: Steven Zaillian
Producer: Mike Medavoy, Steven Zaillian, Arnold Messer, Ken Lemberger, Andreas Schmid, James Carville, Todd Phillips, David Thwaites, Andreas Grosch and Michael Hausman
Cast: Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Patricia Clarkson, Anthony Hopkins, Jackie Haley, John Lovett, Glenn Morshower, Talia Balsam, Kathy Baker, Travis Champagne, Frederic Forrest, Paul Desmond and Kevin Dunn


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