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Our Brand Is Crisis

Despite its awful title, Our Brand Is Crisis has a few things going for it—mainly, its two stars.

Sandra Bullock is Jane Bodine, a political consultant who is lured to work for losing presidential candidate Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida) in Bolivia. Billy Bob Thornton is her rival consultant, Pat Candy, working with the front-running candidate Riviera (Louis Arcella). The consultants have a history between them, going back to a long ago mayoral election in the U.S.

Working with a team from the U.S. (Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy and Zoe Kazan), Bodine decides that Castillo’s message to voters will focus on all the urgent crises the Bolivia faces. She works to make him appear less arrogant, more a “man of the people.”

(The film’s title comes from a 2005 documentary of the same name, which told the story of a real-life Bolivian election consulted by James Carville. Thornton, with a shaved head in OBIC, closely resembles Carville. The screenplay for this new film, by Peter Straughan, was inspired by the decade-ago doc.)

Candy flirts with Bodine but she resists all advances. The sexual tension that might have made the story more interesting is one-sided. Along with verbal jousting between the two, there are dirty tricks that are marginally amusing. A race between two campaign busses down a narrow jungle road provides thrills and a memorable moment of silliness.

Our Brand Is Crisis is a film with a decent setup but a lackluster payoff. The mix of drama and light comedy could’ve been dialed a bit more to the funny side. Also, a couple of elements on the serious side rang completely inauthentic.

To director David Gordon Green (who directed stoner films Pineapple Express and Your Highness), I say, “Nice try. Do better next time.”

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