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Review: Tika Sumpter, Jamie Lee Curtis can't bolster political thriller ‘An Acceptable Loss’

Review: Tika Sumpter, Jamie Lee Curtis can't bolster political thriller ‘An Acceptable Loss’
Jamie Lee Curtis and Tika Sumpter in "An Acceptable Loss." (IFC Films)

There’s the kernel of an intriguing political thriller buried beneath all the strained exposition and pompous speechifying enveloping “An Acceptable Loss,” but writer-director Joe Chappelle never manages to find it.

Tika Sumpter plays Dr. Elizabeth “Libby” Lamm, a former national security advisor, who several years previously played a pivotal role in the U.S. government’s war on terror, resulting in a nuclear strike claiming 150,000 Syrian casualties.

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Her controversial past has followed the paranoid single woman, who keeps her trusty pistol close at her side, to a new post as an honorary foreign policy professor at a Chicago university, where she finds herself being stalked by an intense student (Ben Tavassoli) hellbent on tracking her every move.

Is he a radicalized vengeance-seeker? A junior CIA operative?

As orchestrated by Chappelle, primarily a TV director whose credits include “Chicago Fire” and “CSI: Miami,” the big reveal proves as disappointingly unpersuasive as the rest of the wobbly production, matched note for pretentious note by Valgeir Sigurdsson’s ill-fitting, string-heavy score.

Though Sumpter lends her role the requisite controlled, inner strength and Jamie Lee Curtis utilizes her trademark fierce resolve to good effect as an intimidating commander in chief (fearlessly navigating such haughty dialogue as, “Doesn’t it bother you that the idea of American exceptionalism is an anachronism?”), the politics prove as tenuous as the nonexistent thrill factor.

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‘An Acceptable Loss’

Rated: R, for language and brief sexuality

Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

Playing: Starts Jan. 25, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; also on VOD

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