Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Distinguished Gentleman


The Distinguished Gentleman; Comedy/ Satire, USA, 1992; D: Jonathan Lynn, S: Eddie Murphy, Lane Smith, Sheryl Lee Ralph, James Garner

Florida. Thomas Jefferson Johnson is a local con artist who earns money with his colleagues thanks to tricks and deceits. However, one day he overhears a conversation between two politicians and realizes that politics is where the money is. Using the name of a deceased Congressman, he wins the local election and travels to Washington. There, slimy Dick Dodge takes him under his wing, in the Committee for Power and Industry - thus, the money of the lobbyists dictates Johnson's votes in Congress. However, when he finds out that a high tension line caused cancer in a nearby school, his conscience catches up with him and he exposes Dodge's corrupt nature in Congress.

One of the more decent Eddie Murphy comedies, political satire "The Distinguished Gentleman" is flawed and clumsy in the first half, but it can be sensed that writers Marty Kaplan and Jonathan Reynolds at least put some effort into the story, which is built on the intelligent premise that a crook wants to enter the world of politics because this is where 'crime pays out', which paraphrases Sturges' similar satire "The Great McGinty". In one of the most subtly humorous sequence that exposes the Congressman-lobbyist system, protagonist Johnson listens how one senior politician is presenting him laws for which he can either vote for or against, yet in the same sentence he immediately gives him a list of lobbyists for both sides, implying that he can vote for those that pay him more. The movie could have been sharper and better, yet, just like Murphy's "Trading Places", despite some cheap jokes "Gentleman" actually contains a highly intelligent and complicated showdown that requires from the viewers to pay twice as much attention in order not to miss something, which is both gripping, intriguing, sophisticated and funny (especially when the lobbyist is arguing with Dodge after Johnson's speech, revealing numerous 'money washing' schemes, such as that he bought 10.000 copies of his autobiography, financed his kids in college and invested a fortune in his non existing foundation).

Grade:++

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