review for Power on AllMovie

Power (1986)
by Karl Williams review

An underrated political drama from director Sidney Lumet, who strays outside of his usual New York City confines for a flawed but fascinating tale of Washington, D.C., intrigue that unfortunately didn't hit pay dirt with audiences or critics due to a convoluted mystery plot and some phony domestic drama. While the central scandal at the center of this story proves somewhat anticlimactic, and scenes involving the hero's marital problems ring pretty hollow, what this film is chiefly about is the slick, cynical media manipulation that goes on in political races at every level. Lumet immerses his narrative in the details of exactly how and why it's done, and in these scenes, he renders a fascinating work that's equal parts exposé and primer. Whether advising a client on what to wear, what to say, how to talk, and most significantly, what to believe, or advising a campaign on which voice-over narrator or music to select for an ad campaign, Richard Gere oozes slimy authenticity and nervous, over-caffeinated energy in a scrupulously researched role. Anchored not just by Gere, but also by fine performances from E.G. Marshall and Denzel Washington, Lumet's film frays and crumbles at the edges only when straying too far outside the purview of its protagonist's professional life. That's certainly a serious problem, but not a fatal one by any means. For political process buffs that enjoy films such as The Candidate (1972) and Primary Colors (1998), Power is a solid enough effort to earn a spot on the must-see list.