State of Play: Played out
I regret to inform you that "State of Play" is a thoroughly mediocre movie in every respect.
Cal McAffrey (Russel Crowe) and Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) are newspaper reporters investigating the death of a 25-year-old Capitol Hill staffer who was having an affair with her boss, Rep. Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck). Collins is trying to make his name investigating a shadowy private military contractor based on Blackwater.
Director Kevin McDonald seems to want a pat on the back for recycling as many journalism movie cliches as possible including the grizzled disheveled old newsman who's not afraid to cut a few corners to get the scoop, the dewy cub reporter, and the hard-assed editor with a heart of gold. Now that we expect newspapers to die, those cliches are supposed to be cool and retro, but newspaper nostalgia can't carry this movie.
Crowe delivers a solid performance. I can't fault Rachel McAdams' acting, but her character is a waste of space. Della Frye is supposed to be the paper's political gossip blogger who learns to be a real reporter at the foot of the master. Cal starts by knocking her down a few pegs for writing nothing but snark and opinion. Except that Della is neither snarky, nor opinionated. She doesn't have many distinguishing characteristics at all.
Ben Affleck is wooden and unconvincing as a Gulf War I hero turned crusading congressman. It's hard to believe that golden boy Stephen Collins and frumpy Cal McAffery were ever friends and Affleck's acting doesn't help.
Michael Berresse is suitably creepy as hitman Robert Bingham and Sarah Lord is compelling as a teenage junkie tipster.
Not to give anything away, but the plotting is so clunky and haphazard that the ending feels like a giant bait-and-switch. It's as if the writers got so enthralled with the documenting process of reporting that they didn't bother to think through the details of the underlying scandal the reporters were supposed to be investigating.