Google “Rigged documentary” and you’ll turn up many search results that aren’t actually for “Rigged 2016,” a nonfiction film directed by Bobby Sheehan being rushed into theaters a week before election day. Opening with footage from the first presidential debate in late September, the film is certainly attempting to capitalize on the current election-season fervor, but it’s essentially an hour-long campaign ad for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
The doc starts from the question of whether third-party candidates should be allowed to participate in the presidential debates. However, it quickly spirals out of control, attempting to bring the Flint, Mich., water crisis, the 2008 housing market crash, healthcare, veterans affairs, Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter all under one umbrella with vague declarations of “the system is broken” and “voices need to be heard.”
Those things might all be true, but “Rigged” doesn’t demonstrate how Johnson or any third-party candidate might be able to ameliorate any of these issues. Even the title is misleading: there’s no mention of voter fraud.
“Rigged” hangs its arguments on impassioned personal anecdotes that have little to do with third-party candidates, and a truly grating Abraham Lincoln impersonator who distills the state of the current presidential race into insulting and sketchy pop-culture cartoons.
The appeal to the middle class and working poor seems especially manipulative and loosely constructed, and Johnson isn’t in the film enough to make a captivating argument for himself. “Rigged” is just too little, too late for this particular election.
Running time: 1 hour
Playing: Downtown Independent, Los Angeles