It’s the rare political satire that really works – if only because real politics are so much weirder and painfully amusing than anything a writer could concoct. Exhibit A: Mark Sanford, disgraced governor of South Carolina, announcing he will run for Congress (where he’ll fit right in).
If finding a satire that really works as comedy is rare, finding one that works – and grabs the audience – is ever rarer. That’s because to appreciate satire, you need to be paying attention – to the movie you’re watching, to the world around you on a daily basis.
Thus, while Armando Ianucci’s “In the Loop” won critics’ hosannas and awards, it went virtually unseen. The same of David Mamet and Barry Levinson’s “Wag the Dog,” a phrase many people use without having seen the actual film; it made money but try to find someone under the age of 40 who saw it.
All of which is by way of saying that I admire the impulse of filmmaker Bill Guttentag, whose “Knife Fight” opens today (1/25/13). But you need better material than this to reach even the audience that might appreciate what you’re going for. The funniest, most frighteningly real satire of behind-the-scenes election-campaign manipulation was “Game Change,” which was a true story (about the selection of Sarah Palin to be a vice-presidential candidate in 2008) that was wilder and more jaw-dropping and mind-boggling than anything Guttentag has imagined in “Knife Fight.”
This review continues on my website.