The plight of the over-privileged is becoming one of THE most insufferable dramatic tools of today’s current cinematic landscape, and if this year’s The Runner didn’t satiate your appetite for sex-obsessed politicians, Mora Stephens’ Zipper brings more of the same. What’s a political thriller without a bit of secret canoodling, right?
The problem with Zipper is that there’s very little reason for yet another happy family man to turn into some sadistic, objectifying sex-fiend, and even less motivation when considering the defaming implications that could come out of any guilty admittance. But apparently this is what makes lawyers and politicians who they are – sleaziness, dishonesty, abuse, and a need to bang anything that stands on two legs. At this point, it seems less like a poor decision and more like a job qualification, according to Hollywood.
Patrick Wilson plays D.A. Sam Ellis, a fast-talking figure whose pathway into politics is all but paved in gold after bringing home a high-profile win. But his fame and determination leads to a lapse in judgement, as a one-off experience with an executive escort service spirals into an uncontrollable sexual addiction. His wife Jeannie (Lena Headey) is no fool, growing suspicious of her husband’s appointments, but this doesn’t sway Sam’s unhealthy habit – until law enforcement comes into play. Suddenly his dirty secret becomes a monster that could destroy everything he’s built, so Sam rushes to clean up the scummy mess of breadcrumbs before his illicit past is exposed. If there’s still time.
Do we really care, though? Zipper is just another exaggerated jab at political corruption and the morally repugnant icons we trust to run our government – a jab that’s less about making Sam Ellis feel like a flawed human, and more about generalizing politicians as devious wolves, preying on the weak.
Mora Stephens is quick to assert Sam’s boredom at home when he’s seen masturbating to internet porn (with headphones on, like a rookie), which is supposed to establish the fact that’s he’s an obsessive addict. He won’t interact sexually with his wife, because of boredom (we never really know why), so he’d rather just pleasure himself and pay for strange, random sex with “nameless” females. This is the basis for Sam Elliot’s chronic addiction, established in the most primitive and baseless manner imaginable. Man like sex, man pay for sex, man ruin entire future – so simple, yet so trivial.
It’s a shame, because Patrick Wilson strikes yet another thunderous persona. From horror (Insidious), to action (Stretch), to drama (take your pick), Wilson knows how to command his scenes given any circumstance. In this particular one, he becomes a seedy vagrant who deals with his crippling sexual addiction while grasping onto just enough humanity to remain watchable. It’s not Wilson’s fault that Sam Elliot is nothing but a contorted, narrow caricature of sexual addiction, and even though certain scenes are absolutely ludicrous (not even getting hit by a car can deter his sexual conquest), he runs around like a rabid dog frothing at the mouth. He’s contrived, silly, and cartoonish (like an adulterous superhero), but compared to Nicolas Cage’s turn in The Runner, Wilson wins my vote.
My disapproval of Zipper isn’t an attempt to laugh away temptation – addictions are real and can be vile beasts to tame. It’s more in Stephens’ inability to remain unbiased through her vision. Sam Elliot’s shameless exploitation of young females is extended to a preachy, weightless extent, and while I’m not naive enough to say such cheaters don’t exist in our world, Zipper says nothing about the problem it attempts to tackle.
Lena Headey’s victimized wife gets to the root of the issue, verbally lashing Sam for not giving her the satisfaction of pointing blame towards one party. By using an escort service where he’s a “client,” Sam appears cleaner than flat-out admitting prostitutes were hired (Jeannie’s words), and for this brief moment, it seems like Stephens is finally building all these insatiable encounters into an honest assessment of emotions. But then Zipper takes another turn towards political heroism, and Sam is let off the hook by the corrupt workings of tightly-knit collaborators. This is a movie for the conspiracy lovers out there who want another reason to hate politicians, and nothing more.
Zipper is a hyper-sexualized thriller about yet another rich white male who gets drunk on power and sex until his world comes crashing down (or appears to be). It’s not particularly intelligent, though, or unique in that respect. Patrick Wilson has numerous moments where his character asks why politicians are held to such a high standard, because all humans are flawed, but it’s just a new cinematic character asking the same question as so many before him.
The answer hasn’t changed, either – people need a false idol to believe in. There’s no sugarcoating these truths, but Stephens could have done without the soapbox under her feet while attempting to expose the fat-cats in Washington. It’s the difference between enlightenment and satire, Zipper being a lackluster attempt at the latter.
Zipper is yet another political thriller laced with adultery, but despite Patrick Wilson's surefire performance, it's not a particularly interesting one.