The Big Buy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress

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The Big Buy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress Review


No matter how hard it shakes its fist or rails at the firmament, there's a feeling of dull inevitability to the litany of deceit and crookery laid out in Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck's documentary The Big Buy: Tom Delay's Stolen Congress, even though they seem to feel that they've produced a noble and inspiring story of the fight versus Republican corruption. They can think that because in their corner they've got Texas's Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earl, the ascetic prosecutor who finally brought down "The Hammer" for his many alleged instances of laundering illegal corporate contributions through the Republican Party. The Texas Ranger-like Earl, deeply religious and given to pronouncements of high moral dudgeon, is a refreshing counterpoint to the slick and perpetually grinning DeLay, who of course only appears walking sinisterly in slo-mo on news clips. The problem is, when all is said and done, even if DeLay goes to prison for a very long time -- one of the charges he's currently arraigned on carries a possible life sentence -- the damage he wrought during his time in office can't be easily undone. Thus, there's a letdown at the end of this well-meaning but somewhat scruffy film.

The filmmakers have a doozy of a subject on their hands, but there's only so much one can make of such a man when he refuses to be interviewed. Starting off in Sugar Land, Texas, the heart of DeLay's congressional district, the film follows a couple of local Republican women (one even an activist in the party) who talk about DeLay like he was some promising but wayward teenager who brought shame on them all, lumping him in with that "gang of thugs" he brought to Washington with him. Since this is a Texas political documentary -- and one that keeps things pretty local, which will hurt its chances for viewership outside the Lone Star State -- the ever-earthy authors Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower also show up to lob a few spears at DeLay, who provides his critics with a big fat target.

Although many political documentaries with a solitary target (hatchet jobs like Giuliani Time or the anti-Rove Bush's Brain) muddle through with a mélange of accusations, some muddier than others, and hope to smear their target through the sheer weight of it all, The Big Buy keeps things simple by bringing DeLay's sins down to one major allegation. What DeLay was widely acknowledged at being best at -- besides viciously hammering out consensus from fellow Congressmen and strong-arming K Street firms (with Jack Abramoff) into only hiring Republican lobbyists -- was raising bank vaults full of money from corporations for the party. Problem was that it's illegal in Texas for corporations to give money to candidates. That's ultimately what this whole film boils down to, a guide to how Earl (demonized as a Democrat grandstander by DeLay's allies) finally got his indictments against the once-invincible DeLay.

Somehow, it's not as thrilling as it should be. Whether through repetition or the somewhat shoddy approach, The Big Buy never quite comes together as the rabblerousing call to arms that it wants to be and is instead a weirdly dull piece of agitprop. As an introduction to the trail of dirty money, ideological fundamentalism and corporate/political chicanery that characterized DeLay's political career, the film is certainly competent enough, but no more so than a few newspaper articles on the same subject.



The Big Buy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress

Facts and Figures

Run time: 75 mins

In Theaters: Friday 19th May 2006

Distributed by: Brave New Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: , Jim Schermbeck

Producer: , , Jim Schermbeck

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