The underwhelming, would-be political satire “Knife Fight” plays more like a failed network TV pilot than the savvy feature it clearly set out to be. Think: Aaron Sorkin-lite, uh, really, really lite.
Rob Lowe, in an odd flip on the upright Republican senator he played on “Brothers & Sisters,” stars as Paul Turner, a thriving campaign advisor and “fixer” stuck on constant spin cycle. That is, when he’s not making faux-serious speeches, often directed to his newbie assistant (Jamie Chung), justifying the dubious ethics of his — now their — work.
The part’s a decent fit for Lowe, but, maybe hamstrung by the pale, pedestrian script co-written by director Bill Guttentag and producer Chris Lehane, the appealing actor never quite makes it his own.
But that’s only one of this zip-free, visually bland film’s problems as it skips around among its three unrelated, choppily told stories. These include Turner’s involvement with a populist California senator (David Harbour) blackmailed by an opportunistic masseuse (Brooke Newton), a philandering Kentucky governor (Eric McCormack) with an image crisis, and an idealistic San Francisco clinician (Carrie-Anne Moss) who, against all odds (and, frankly, all believability), makes a gubernatorial run.
An obliging news reporter (Julie Bowen), a grubby operative (Richard Schiff), a complicit political spouse (Saffron Burrows) and a cagey attorney (played by real-life lawyer Alan Dershowitz) unmemorably factor in as well.
“Knife Fight.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes. At Laemmle’s NoHo 7, North Hollywood.