State Of Play
Friday, 10.35pm, UTV
Its credentials may look good on paper (particularly the A-list cast), but it’s that lead weight of expectation that could see a wallet-popping Hollywood project such as this one fall apart.
Viewers who immersed themselves in Paul Abbott’s original – the six-part BBC series shown in 2003 – may actively want to be disappointed by Kevin (The Last King Of Scotland) Macdonald’s very American adaptation. But a film and a television series are, of course, entirely different beasts, and this breathless yet intelligent actioner – which boasts the likes of Tony Gilroy (of the Bourne series) and Peter (Frost/Nixon) Morgan among its screenwriters – doesn’t fail to deliver. Despite the condensed running time, it is an assured reworking, mixing the bones of Abbott’s plot with the feel of all those great conspiracy thrillers of the 1970s.
Russell Crowe (in the role played by John Simm on TV) tops the bill as Cal McAffrey, a scruffy hack of the old order, whose ties to a disgraced congressman see him drawn into a scandal that is growing more salacious by the minute. Ben Affleck (left) is Stephen Collins, the politician in question, who finds himself up to his neck in political slime after a series of murders, including that of the researcher with whom he was having an affair – and who may not have been who she claimed.
The story behind the film
The film was originally set to reunite Fight Club stars Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, but the writers’ strike – which started in 2007 and caused industrywide chaos in the US – put paid to that. Put simply, Pitt wanted rewrites, no one would do them and he dropped out. The delays meant that Norton, too, had to exit the project. Eventually, Crowe and Affleck were cast, but not before John Simm had been courted by the studio... or so he thought. After being invited Stateside, he learned he would have to audition for the part ‘with 400 other people’ – naturally, he returned home, later stating, ‘They remake everything I do, so they know who I am. I’m not begging.’ Vicky Thompson