Contender, The

Rated 4.0 A female senator (Joan Allen), nominated to replace a deceased vice president, is accused of a wild sexual past; her refusal to answer the charges merely plays into the hands of her chief accuser (Gary Oldman). Writer/director Rod Lurie’s film pretends to grapple with issues, but it’s really a “gotcha” political fantasy—immensely satisfying despite (or maybe because of) its hokey-ness and wild implausibility. Joan Allen’s scrubbed, schoolmarm rectitude makes us side with her in her persecution—I mean, can you even imagine Joan Allen having sex? Allen’s freeze-dried nobility is the film’s hallowed center, but the mainspring is Jeff Bridges as the U.S. President—folksy, canny, revelling in the perks of office. Bridges is so good he almost brings off the whopping, cornball last scene.