As New York's attorney general, Spitzer was "the sheriff of Wall Street", determined to force bankers to operate within the law. He fearlessly went after the biggest firms, standing up for people who were in danger of losing their hard-earned savings to fat-cat executives. This earned him a reputation that propelled him into the governor's seat and was grooming him to be president.
But it also gave him several formidable enemies. Then the news broke that he was a regular client of a high-priced prostitution firm. And Wall Street celebrated his fall.
With this film, Gibney dives beneath the sensationalistic headlines to tell the true story through a telling collection of interviews and clips. He doesn't need to connect the dots because it becomes increasingly obvious that these wealthy bankers must have used their influence within the government to bring Spitzer down and protect their massive profits. And in this battle for survival, it's clear who the good and bad guys really are.
Spitzer says that what happened to him is a "classic tale" of the unexpected fall of a virtuous politician. As he challenged the "masters of the universe", he knew he was in their gun-sites. And he also made a stupid decision to get involved with a hooker ("Angelina", played in interviews by the actress Schmidt), then had to watch as the media twisted the story into something far from the truth. He knows he isn't innocent, but Gibney pointedly notes that Republican Congressmen caught in the same scandal weren't even reprimanded.
In other words, this film isn't about Spitzer: it's about rampant corruption in America's government. And what we see is staggering, as the law is bent to specifically bring down one man who vowed to root out waste and sleaze. Gibney doesn't let Spitzer off the hook, but we see that he is a lively, funny, quick-tempered man who recognises his own flaws. In other words, it's positively Shakespearean in scope. And vitally important.
Run time: 117 mins
In Theaters: Friday 4th March 2011
Box Office USA: $0.2M
Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 61 Rotten: 6
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Director: Alex Gibney
Screenwriter: Alex Gibney
Starring: Eliot Spitzer as Himself