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Film review: Our Brand Is Crisis – limp Sandra Bullock political satire

Billy Bob Thornton puts in an effortlessly slippery performance but Bullock fails to get a handle on her flawed political strategist character in a film that’s disappointing and old hat

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 January, 2016, 5:30pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 January, 2016, 5:30pm

It is no easy task to make Sandra Bullock unlikeable on screen, but director David Gordon Green manages just that in his toothless South American political satire that squanders its premise as readily as its capable cast.

Based on real events that were depicted in an eponymous 2005 documentary, American political strategist “Calamity” Jane Bodine (Bullock) is hired by a dark horse Bolivian candidate to run his presidential campaign. Far out of her element, and still reeling from a career-threatening personal scandal, Bodine arrives to discover that her arch rival Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton) is working for the opposition.

Produced by George Clooney, who at one time was slated to direct, Our Brand Is Crisis flip-flops between a gritty exposé of South American corruption and a witty examination of political one-upmanship.

Thornton is effortlessly slippery as the ageing pro not afraid to get his hands dirty, but Bullock, seemingly desperate to explore another side to her screen persona, can’t get a handle on her flawed character. Green – whose erratic career swings, from George Washington to Pineapple Express, betray an artist in desperate need of a clear vision – does all he can just to get the film finished.

A robust supporting cast that includes Scoot McNairy (Argo) and Anthony Mackie (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) can do little to help matters. Our Brand Is Crisis appears to disapprove of US involvement overseas and smear campaigns overshadowing real policies, but even in an election year, it feels woefully irrelevant and old hat.

Our Brand Is Crisis opens on January 21