STATE OF PLAY:

One can see a number of similarities between this movieís plot and ALL THE PRESIDENTíS MEN (1976). Like that political thriller, this film centers around a veteran reporter (Russell Crowe) and a less experienced writer (Rachel McAdams) working for a newspaper modeled after The Washington Post, run by a demanding editor (Helen Mirren). Thereís even a shadowy, Deep Throat-like character (David Harbour) who covertly feeds information to the journalists. But instead of a third-rate burglary, the pair find themselves investigating a series of homicides tied to a Blackwater-like corporation contracting with the government for military security duties in war zones. It sounds complicated but as written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy (MICHAEL CLAYTON) and Billy Ray, it plays out in a fairly taut manner with some scenes of genuine suspense. There are a few sequences where the narrative feels somewhat compressed as though it were rushing a little too rapidly to arrive at its rather effective climax. For me, it minimized what I think is a very believable scenario of a company the existence of which is based on contract killings, perfectly willing to ply its trade in order to protect its profits. Even if this film isnít as excellent as it could have been, itís still well-acted, well-produced and well-scripted with the backdrop of real-life challenges and changes currently going on in a newspaper industry struggling to avoid extinction. No bailout is needed for this cinematic effort, though, which can stand on its own merit as being both entertaining and smart with neither a filibuster nor a lobbyist in sight.

MOVIES TO WATCH FOR IN MAY: GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST (May 1), X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (May 1), ADORATION (May 8), STAR TREK (May 8), ANGELS & DEMONS (May 15), TERMINATOR SALVATION (May 21), NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN (May 22), THE BROTHERS BLOOM (May 29), DRAG ME TO HELL (May 29), UP (May 29)