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Movie review: 'Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer'

amny

amny

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
3.5 stars
Documentary by Alex Gibney
With Eliot Spitzer, Kim Allen, Wrenn Schmidt

In “Client 9,” filmmaker Alex Gibney lands a series of sit-down interviews with fallen Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Though we’re all dying to hear what Spitzer has to say about the prostitution scandal that ended his gubernatorial stint, what’s more intriguing, as Gibney discovers, is how the scandal even came to light in the first place.

Known as the Sheriff of Wall Street during his tenure as New York’s attorney general, Spitzer took on major financial institutions — AIG, Merrill Lynch, Salomon Smith Barney — long before the economic collapse. He continued his aggressive policing when he became governor and, needless to say, made enemies in high places. Gibney interviews several of them — the New York Stock Exchange’s Kenneth Langone, AIG’s Hank Greenberg, former state Sen. Joe Bruno.

Tracking the mysterious circumstances by which Spitzer’s communication with the Emperors Club VIP escort service was flagged, investigated and leaked to the public, Gibney suggests that Spitzer’s undoing was orchestrated by one or more of his foes. It sounds like the stuff of conspiracy thrillers, but Gibney’s systematic investigation makes a convincing case.

Not that any of this excuses the hypocrisy of Spitzer’s indiscretions. When asked about the theory that his enemies conspired against him, Spitzer refuses to go down that road. “I brought myself down,” he says with persuasive contrition. Whatever your opinion of the fallen governor may be, his regret seems sincere and his humility palpable.

As for his answer to the question, “Why did you do it?” Spitzer is at a loss for words. Gibney fills in the blanks by speaking with some of the key scandal players, including Spitzer’s favorite escort, “Angelina.” It’s fascinating to hear her testimony, and also crystallizing. (Ashley Dupre, in case you’re wondering, only met with Spitzer once.)

“Client 9” takes a salacious anecdote and contextualizes it against a broader, much more sinister political landscape.

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