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Peter and Tim are both law students looking to get into the battleground of politics in Washington, but they both have different ideals and ethics. Tim wants to pursue a career in justice, but Peter is determined to be a big political power broker any way he can, even if that means bending the rules. As their careers push them towards political opposites, their friendship must constantly adapt to the new situation.Written by
Murray Chapman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The congressional district political region that Peter Burton (John Cusack) was running in was the Connecticut 4th District which is, as mentioned in the film, known as the "Gold Coast". This is a real life electoral region in Connecticut, USA. See more »
In the parking garage scene, Peter recognizes the car of a senator from Kentucky by the license plate on the front of his car. Kentucky did not issue front plates at any time in the 1980's or 1990's. See more »
We may not always get what we want. We may not always get what we need. Just so's we don't get what we deserve!
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This is one of the finest political movies ever done. And if he doesn't decide to return to the screen post his 90th birthday, it is a fitting swan song to the career of Richard Widmark.
James Spader's Tim Gerrity and John Cusack's Peter Burton meet on the first day of law school and get assigned to be roommates. The film follows the career paths each take, the same woman they both are involved with and the values each takes from his background and develops along the way.
Spader is the idealistic upper middle class kid who is born to a tradition of public service and attracted by the idealism of it. He's good in his part, but it's John Cusack's portrayal that really drives this film.
Driven is the word for it, that is exactly what Peter Burton is. He's from a lower middle class background and he's desperate to escape. In fact, he's invented a background for himself that's phony and the scene where that is revealed is one of the movie's high points. I will not say any more.
I've known a few Peter Burtons in my time too. Desperate to succeed at any price, willing to sacrifice friends and family to do it. It's what makes John Cusack's performance so real for me. I think it is the finest thing he's ever done on film.
Richard Widmark plays United States Senator Joseph Stiles, a Yankee blue blood type to the manor born. Harry Carey, Jr., in his memoir, In the Company of Heroes described Widmark as one of the smartest and most literate men he's ever encountered, a man able to talk intelligently on a variety of subjects. Because of that, I have to believe that this role must have been a personal favorite.
The best scene in the movie is when Cusack, who Widmark has made a protégé of, essentially blackmails Widmark into supporting Cusack for an open Congressional seat. Widmark is a politician and one who has he himself describes can play hardball if needed. But he's also there to try and do some good. He has to give into the blackmail for reasons I won't go into, but he does rip open the character of Cusack in some unforgettable dialog.
I would also commend to other actors in this. Mandy Patinkin who plays an unscrupulous businessman/racketeer with an understated malevolence and Paul Guilfoyle who is Widmark's chief of staff, who has Cusack's number, but is unable to do anything about it.
I'm surprised that no Oscar nods came with this film, especially for Widmark as a supporting actor. I couldn't give this film a higher recommendation.
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