Bill Guttentag and Chris Lehane’s film Knife Fight has a great cast line up, but fails to use them to create a cohesive piece. The meandering storyline creates confusion and at times seems to drag on. I was expecting more from a politically centered film that reunited former West Wing alums, Rob Lowe and Richard Schiff, on the big screen.
Lowe plays the lead role of Paul Turner, a “fixer” in the political game, who works alongside his assistant, Kerstin, played by Jamie Chung (Sucker Punch). They are both currently involved in cleaning up the messes of two clients, a Kentucky governor up for reelection (Eric McCormack) and a war veteran California Senator (David Harbour). As can be surmised from observing politicians in real life, both client’s issues involve covering up affairs. While cutting between these two storylines, we get a glimpse into Kerstin’s home life and it is revealed she is lesbian.
Kerstin and her girlfriend Samantha, played by Frankie Shaw, are in bed while Kerstin works on her laptop. As Samantha looks for some attention, their conversation reveals that Kerstin is lying to her parents about her current career path as well as her relationship with Sam. A phone call from Paul interrupts their night time chat, but that doesn’t stop Sam from teasing Kerstin by kissing her neck while she tries to remain cool on the line. Besides this scene, and a cutaway of Sam watching a political ad on her laptop, their relationship is never referred to again and felt like an afterthought.
screencaps from jamie-chung.us
Throughout the film Carrie-Anne Moss’s character, Penelope Nelson, makes brief appearances to ask for Turner’s help in her bid to run for California governor. Nelson,a doctor that runs a free clinic, makes Turner question the morality of his past actions. Her underdeveloped character seems more like she is introduced as a convenience to wrap up the story in its final hours.
The lack of character development is definitely a major issue in Knife Fight. I would have loved to see more of a focus on Jamie Chung’s character, Kerstin. Her background as a closeted Korean-American lesbian struggling with her career choice could have added some flavor to the plot. But just like a majority of the film, I felt confused about how I should feel about her character and was disappointed in the final wrap up.
Knife Fight is available now on DVD.