Client 9 (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner04/03/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 117 mins

Well made, grimly fascinating documentary that paints a thoroughly depressing picture of political corruption on the side of Spitzer's opponents.

What's it all about?
Directed by Alex Gibney (who's made some of the best documentaries of the past few years), Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (as its subtitle suggests) details the rise and fall of Eliot Spitzer, who was New York's crusading attorney general (known as The Sheriff of Wall Street) until the news broke that he was the client of a high class prostitution service and he was forced to resign in disgrace.

The Good
Gibney assembles the story by cutting between news reports, archive footage and revealing talking head interviews, primarily with Spitzer himself but also with a number of Spitzer's enemies, including former AIG head Hank Greenberg and former head of the NYSE compensation board Ken Langone, both of whom can barely conceal their delight at Spitzer's downfall. There are also interviews with prostitute “Angelina”, where Angelina is played by actress Wrenn Schmidt (although the words are presumably taken from a real-life interview, and the film doesn't go out of its way to make this clear).

It's fair to say that the film is firmly on Spitzer's side, detailing his astonishing record in office and making clear that he was the only politician prepared to go after both the bankers and the corrupt government officials, particularly over things like the environment. However, it stops short of excusing Spitzer altogether, acknowledging the hypocrisy of shutting down prostitution rings while using their services and allowing Spitzer to admit that even though he was essentially set up, it was ultimately his own actions that brought about his downfall.

The Great
That said, the film also makes it abundantly clear that Spitzer's powerful enemies deliberately went after him while turning a blind eye to others involved in the same scandal, such as various Republican Congressmen.

If there's a problem with the film it's that it spends rather too much time on the prostitution side of the story – the cuts to interviews with other figures on the call-girl circuit begin too early in the film and don't really add anything pertinent to the story until later on.

Worth seeing?
Client 9 is a powerful, well made documentary that is by turns fascinating, rage-inducing and thoroughly depressing. It would also make a great double bill with Inside Job (in which Spitzer also appears). Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 21/08/2018 22:52

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