This so-so re-make of the 1949 political drama is set in 1950s Louisiana. Campaign fixer Tiny Duffy (James Gandolfini) puts one arm around the shoulder of Willie Stark (Sean Penn) and the other behind the newcomer's back, pushing the political greenhorn in front of one blue-collar crowd after another.
What the ambitious young man doesn't realise is that it is Tiny's other candidate who's gaining from a split rural vote. But halfway through a repeated speech, Willie sees the light, turning on his campaign manager and making himself a contender with a single scorching appeal: "Listen to me, you hicks! Lift up your eyes and look at God's blessed and un-flyblown truth. Nobody ever helped a hick but a hick himself."
Director Steven Zaillian deserves admiration for his determination to remake one of Hollywood's best-loved films. The 1949 version won three Oscars, including Best Actor for Broderick Crawford.
Zaillian, better known as the screenwriter of Schindler's List and Gangs Of New York, claims not to have seen the original film, preferring the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren.
He gets a firebrand performance by Sean Penn, and enlists a fine (and distinctly English) cast, including Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet and Jude Law as a bourbon-addled reporter.
Despite this, the original film - which needs to be viewed in the context of when it was made - is superior.