Power (1986 film)

Power is a 1986 American political drama film directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Richard Gere. The original screenplay by David Himmelstein focuses on political corruption and how power affects both those who wield it and the people they try to control.

Theatrical release poster
Directed bySidney Lumet
Produced byReene Schisgal
Mark Tarlov
Kenneth Utt
Wolfgang Glattes
Written byDavid Himmelstein
Music byCy Coleman
CinematographyAndrzej Bartkowiak
Edited byAndrew Mondshein
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • January 31, 1986 (1986-01-31)
Running time
111 minutes
Budget$16 million
Box office$3,800,000[1]

Denzel Washington's performance in the film as public relations expert Arnold Billings earned him the 1987 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture. Beatrice Straight's performance as Claire Hastings earned her a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actress.

Plot summary

Pete St. John (Richard Gere), a ruthless and highly successful media consultant, is juggling a couple of other political candidates when asked to join the campaign of wealthy but little-known Ohio businessman Jerome Cade (J. T. Walsh), who hopes to win the Senate seat being vacated by St. John's friend Sam Hastings (E. G. Marshall).

He comes into conflict with Arnold Billings (Denzel Washington), a public relations expert whose firm Cade has hired. St. John's investigation into Cade's background prompts Billings to retaliate by bugging St. John's office phones, flooding the basement of his headquarters, tampering with his private jet, and interfering with his other clients.

These actions force St. John to take a hard look at himself and what he has become and to decide whether his ex-wife Ellen Freeman (Julie Christie) and his former partner Wilfred Buckley (Gene Hackman) are right in believing that his success is due primarily to the exploitation of others.


Critical reception

In his extremely negative review of Power in The New York Times, Vincent Canby described the film as "a well-meaning, witless, insufferably smug movie that . . . suffers from the total lack of a comic imagination."[2]

However, in his much more favorable review of Power in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert observed, "It's smart, it's knowledgeable, sometimes it's funny, occasionally it is very touching, and I learned something from it . . . The movie builds up considerable momentum during its first hour. There's a sense of excitement, of identification with this man who is being driven by his own energy, ambition and cynicism . . . During the second half of the movie, however, a growing disappointment sets in. Power is too episodic. It doesn't really declare itself to be about any particular story, any single clear-cut issue . . . the movie itself seems to sense that it's going nowhere. The climax is a pointless, frustrating montage of images. It's a good montage, but it belongs somewhere in the middle of the movie; it states the problem, but not the solution or even the lack of a solution. The movie seems to be asking us to walk out of the theater shaking our heads in disillusionment, but I was more puzzled than disillusioned."[3]

See also


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