All but breast-fed on New York
Times editorials indicting the wicked links between machine politics and Wall
Street, by all rights I should have gobbled down Alex Gibney’s true life
morality play with the same relish I found for his immaculate skewering of the
Enron crowd, The Smartest Guys in the Room. But, alas, watching a
disgraced white knight – the rise and improbable fall of New York’s crusading
former attorney general/governor Elliot Spitzer – tumble over on his sword
while the baddies smirk and gloat is a bitter cinema pill.
Gibney’s probe of the circumstances
that had Spitzer resigning in disgrace after admitting to being the notorious
“Client 9” of a high priced escort service, is enriched by another
collaboration with writer Peter Elkind, author of Rough Justice: The Rise
and Fall of Elliot Spitzer. The duo are wizard class investigators who
refuse to take their story beyond the evidence.
Technically the film’s only offense
is Gibney’s decision to hire an actress to recite the tale of a former escort
who proved camera shy. It’s not a big deal in itself, but knowing that this key
witness is a doc stand-in does take one’s head out of the story.
The filmmakers scored a coup when
they wrangled an on camera chat with Spitzer, but the former take-no-prisoners
prosecutor is remarkable inarticulate when it comes to assessing his own fatal
flaw. Spitzer was that rare bird: the silver spoon scion of a real estate
fortune who possessed the knowledge, chutzpah and institutional power to punish
financial wrongdoers as well as position himself as an alternative should Obama
Client 9’s juiciest moments
arise from the unrepentant testimony of Spitzer’s mortal enemies like the
ex-pugilist former State Senate GOP leader, Joe Bruno or Home Depot founder Ken
Langone, who comes across as the kind of guy who regards taking down Spitzer as
mere foreplay before going after Harry Potter.