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Review: Mark Felt is a Watergate explainer that doesn’t explain much

Liam Neeson as Mark Felt.

Bob Mahoney/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

2 out of 4 stars

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House
Written by
Peter Landesman
Directed by
Peter Landesman
Liam Neeson, Diane Lane and Josh Lucas

A U.S. president under suspicion. A batch of civil servants in distress. A group of hard-nosed journalists digging for the truth. Yes, 2017 seems like just the right time to revisit the Watergate scandal that struck down Richard Nixon's house of cards.

But Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House is not the zeitgeist chaser it's being marketed as. For one thing, writer-director Peter Landesman's drama fancies itself an explainer as to how one FBI man (Liam Neeson's title character, better known as whistle-blower Deep Throat) helped unravel the corrupt administration. Yet it doesn't actually explain much, throwing a bunch of names and seemingly arbitrary incidents at the screen in the hope that everyone watching the film happened to work at the Washington Post back in the day.

Even Andrew Fleming's 1999 comedy Dick knew how to distill Watergate and G. Gordon Liddy to a tidy 90 minutes, and it had the good graces to be funny. Landesman has wrangled a murderer's row of character actors here – Tom Sizemore! Ike Barinholtz! Michael C. Hall! Bruce Greenwood! – but his script and direction lack a distinct killer instinct.

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