Mr. Movie

'State of Play' shows up as a recycled mess

I love whodunits.

A whodunit based on a six-part, award-winning British TV series involving newspapers is even better.

The disheveled and seemingly disorganized loner reporter, the guy with piles of papers and files in his cubicle, driving a beat-up old car, with a nose for news. He sniffs out corruption and rights a wrong.

I’m hooked.

Instead of London, the story State of Play morphs into the hallowed halls of Congress in Washington D.C. and the misdeeds of a Congressman. He’s leading an investigation into a shady quasi-military security organization and is involved in a sordid affair. She gets murdered and the plot thickens.

I'm still hooked, but this is treading on been-there-done-that territory. The good news is the producers packing the picture box office with Russell Crowe and then adding the sometimes pretty good Ben Affleck, and the always interesting Robin Wright Penn and Helen Mirren. Rachel McAdams is along as eye candy. It’s a can’t miss hit — right?

Wrong. A disappointing wrong.

Lead writer Matthew Michael Caranahan (Lions for Lambs) does a great job of developing the puzzle. His problem: you know the bad guys and you know the why.

Without some much-needed plot punch and places where you really worry about the characters, the concept fizzles. Tony Gilroy, who did the thrilling Bourne movies and Michael Clayton, and Breaches Billy Ray are added to the writing team later. They help but not enough — especially when you get to the way-too-Hollywood anti-climactic ending.

This material deserves better.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars

Rated PG-13 for mature themes, language, violence. It opens Friday, April 17 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.