Mindless Media Manipulation
Release Date: October 13, 2000
Genre: Political Drama/Propaganda
Runtime: 126 minutes
Distributor: DreamWorks Pictures
Director: Rod Lurie
Writer: Rod Lurie
Address Comments To:David Geffen, Steven Spielberg & Jeffrey Katzenberg
100 Universal Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608-1085
THE CONTENDER opens with Vice Presidential hopeful Senator Jack Hathaway (William L. Petersen) and a reporter fishing under a bridge when suddenly a car is seen plunging into the water only a few yards away. Hathaway dives into the water to save the female driver, but to no avail.
Later, while in the Oval Office of the White House, Democratic President Jackson Evans, played by Jeff Bridges in one of his best performances, and the president’s close advisor, Kermit Newman (played by Sam Elliot), tell Hathaway that he must announce that he will decline any nomination from them to be Vice president. They explain that the situation of him failing to save the girl is too “Chappaquiddick,” meaning the scenario is questionable as far as the media is concerned. Shocked and incredulous, Hathaway has no choice but to step down.
Evans then makes the decision to bring Senator Laine Hanson (Joan Allen of PLEASANTVILLE) on board. Although she appears to be the second choice, the public seems to receive her well. In reality, the president all along wanted to appoint her because he wants the legacy of being the first president to appoint a female to vice president.
Within the government, however, there are a few people who want Hathaway back, especially Republican Sheldon Runyon (Gary Oldman, who played Pilate on TV’s recent JESUS miniseries), known as Shelly among his peers. When photos and testimony surface about Hanson’s apparent involvement in a sexual orgy at age 19, Runyon is responsible not only for the report, but for leaking it before the public. Hanson, though in disbelief about the findings, decides not to answer the charges. She points out whenever she can that her personal life is nobody’s business but her and her family.
Runyon’s persistence to discredit Hanson is fueled by his mission to reinstate Hathaway as the Vice Presidential candidate. Though Hanson eventually bends to pressure and resigns, the truth comes out, and Runyon’s schemes are exposed to President Evans, who takes a little retaliation of his own.
THE CONTENDER contains many twists that make the story’s theme interesting, but extremely flawed. Artistically speaking, the best part of the movie is the acting. Particularly well-developed is Bridges as President Evans, who’s pictured as a real down-to-earth man who is constantly trying to stump the White House chef by ordering bizarre things at a moment’s notice. This bit turns out to be the most effective part of the movie, although, in the end, screenwriter and director Rod Lurie makes even Bridges’ character serve the contrivances of the corrupt socialist political agenda in the script.
On the flip side is Hanson’s character. Joan Allen does a fine job in carrying out her role, but it is the role itself that is highly questionable. Hanson’s strong points include her strict adherence to her personal moral principle about keeping her personal life private, even when it turns out to be inconvenient. The weak points of the role, however, are so bigoted against religious and conservative groups that it undermines her character’s intelligence and that of the story.
Hanson’s closing statement to Congress in the movie is a great example of this. For example, her Anti-Constitutional comments regarding her belief in separation of church and state “not to protect religion from the government, but to protect the government from fanatical religious groups” treat a small fraction of “right-wing” groups as though they represent the whole. She also lists a loony leftist litany of neo-fascist socialist issues that she supports in one ridiculous scene including, if you can believe it, not only atheism, but also pro-choice on abortion, support for a big military because we must stop genocide all over the world, no more guns in anyone’s house anywhere, and protecting children from the evils of tobacco!!! None of her comments, however, are so bold as her anti-biblical conclusion, where she states, “I do not need God to tell me my absolutes. I go to church and my church is this chapel of democracy.”
Interestingly (and this is particularly revealing of the movie’s politically correct Marxist agenda), THE CONTENDER also has a few harsh words to say against the strong, but sometimes flawed, American patriots who revealed the Soviet Union’s Communist infiltration of Hollywood in the late 1940s and the 1950s. The movie adopts the current Marxist line that the pro-Soviet communists who were jailed and blacklisted during that period were just innocent folks fighting for democracy, exactly like the Hanson character in this movie. In reality, however, these communists were part of a vast, sometimes subtle, system of subversion and espionage (funded from Moscow) that infiltrated Hollywood, including some labor unions. Furthermore, many of the people who testified against these traitors of true democracy were themselves blacklisted by the Hollywood friends of these communists. These truths have been fully revealed in works like journalist Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley’s fine book, HOLLYWOOD PARTY. The only reason you may not have heard about them is because of the Marxist censorship at the highest levels of America’s socialist journalistic establishment, not to mention America’s politically correct college campuses and politically correct “public” schools.
THE CONTENDER’s false Marxist revisionist history can also be seen in Hanson’s references to the Founding Fathers, who wrote the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Hanson says the Founding Fathers adopted “separation” of church and state “not to protect religion from the government, but to protect the government from fanatical religious groups.”
This is absolutely false! In fact, the first amendment of the constitution does not even use the term “separation of church and state!!!” In fact, the first amendment actually only limits the federal government from establishing one particular Christian denomination as a national church. Thus, according to the real original intent of the first amendment, states and local governments can do whatever they want in regard to this specific issue. The best and most thoroughly researched scholarly books and articles affirm this truth. Furthermore, as historian Forrest Macdonald and others point out, the book that the Founding Fathers most cited and praised was the Bible! Even Thomas Paine, who later wrote things defending deism, praised the Bible in his popular Revolutionary pamphlet COMMON SENSE. Thus, Hanson’s references to the Founding Fathers is another example of contrived anti-Christian bigotry in THE CONTENDER.
Not only that, but at the same time that this movie cites its phony definition of separation of church and state, it talks about President Abraham Lincoln and the great movement to free the slaves. Of course, the movie conveniently fails to mention the fact that many, if not most, of the people in the anti-slavery movement professed to be Christians! So, how come Rod Lurie doesn’t attack these “radical religious zealots” who actually helped start a really violent civil war? Because his movie is just a contrived piece of evil propaganda, that’s why! It represents mindless media manipulation at its worst! This movie is so bad in this respect that it’s almost laughable, if it weren’t so deadly serious and sincere.
Also making some bold comments is the character of Shelly Runyon. Oldman’s portrayal of this hypocritical, semi-psychotic right wing zealot (in terms of the movie's own viewpoint) proves once again that he is extremely talented in portraying a wide range of characters. Even so, it is the character itself that, again, is an example of an agenda-based, propagandistic plot, even though he delivers a rousing speech in favor of eliminating abortion.
As noted above, screenwriter and director Rod Lurie’s manipulation of the characters in this movie is not really art; it’s propaganda. Furthermore, as he did in his first movie, DETERRENCE, Lurie invents a series of contrived twists that play like a bad suspense thriller. The big secret of one of Hanson’s opponents that the movie reveals at the end is particularly unbelievable. Of course, few of America’s crypto-Marxist movie critics will mention this, because they’d rather nitpick the contrivances in a clean family movie with good biblical values.
Thus, despite a few positive points concerning double standards and sticking by one’s personal principles, THE CONTENDER plays like a negative attack ad from the Democratic Party, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance, the Communist Party, and Atheists United. Even one-time pornographic script writer, Roger Ebert, praised the movie for daring to take a stance in favor of one party, the Democrats. Of course, he didn’t mention the loony leftist litany of anti-biblical political stands from Hanson in her final silly speech. It is extremely regrettable that a major studio movie would direct such strong, hateful political mudslinging against God and the Christian faith. Whether Democrat or Republican, man or woman, Christian or atheist, the movie's lack of respect toward Christianity’s most cherished beliefs defeats part of the very message of tolerance that the movie is trying to send. Thus, THE CONTENDER itself is hypocritical. This, along with its foul language (including profanities against the Name of Jesus Christ), depicted sex, scripted contrivances, and other questionable elements, completely incapacitates an otherwise well-acted and well-photographed movie.
The director of THE CONTENDER, Rod Lurie, used to be a movie critic. He often taught at his own special series of premiere Hollywood screenings, where he would talk in loving, slurpy tones after the screenings with filmmakers like the acclaimed actress Joan Allen who appears in this movie. According to one of our reviewers who regularly attended Mr. Lurie's screenings, Rod once admitted to being an atheist who believes in nothing. Such atheists have no real rational foundation for a coherent system of moral values, especially if they believe, as many do, in the irrational randomness of evolutionary theory. It's too bad that DreamWorks, which produced the wonderful, God-centered PRINCE OF EGYPT and this summer's charming CHICKEN RUN, has sought fit to distribute this evil, mean-spirited, irrational piece of propaganda, one of the worse cases of demonic manipulation in memory.
THE CONTENDER plays like a negative attack ad from the Democratic Party, the Communist Party and Atheists United. It is extremely regrettable that a movie which tries to make some moral points about politics would direct the usual hateful political mudslinging toward God. This hypocrisy, along with foul language, depicted sex, strong Marxist revisionist history, and other evil elements, incapacitates an otherwise well-made, but highly contrived movie. THE CONTENDER is a really bad case of mindless media manipulation