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Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer Reviews

At the end of Alex Gibney’s Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, odds are you’ll dislike most everybody you’ve spent the last two hours with -- the lone exception being Gibney himself. With the tenacity of the best investigative journalists, Gibney tackles a bunch of topics, and teaches his audience about them in the most entertaining and accessible ways imaginable. In the film’s opening, he details how Eliot Spitzer, while attorney general of New York, uncovered the illegal and ultimately harmful techniques being used by the heads of various powerful financial institutions. In layman’s terms, Gibney explains their dirty-dealings, and then lets his audience share in the outrage and righteousness that fueled Spitzer’s determined efforts to make corporate big wigs -- like New York stock exchange director Kenneth Langone and AIG CEO Maurice Greenberg -- suffer consequences for their malfeasance. Far from being just a dull lecture about high finance, the movie also gives us a remarkable amount of insight on how to run a high-end prostitution ring. Gibney interviews the mastermind behind one of the services used by Spitzer, as well as a loquacious artist-turned-part-time pimp, who reveal how you grow an illegal business like that, and how you acquire a crew of women that can command thousands of dollars an hour in fees. Gossip hounds might be interested to learn that Ashley Dupre -- the young woman who, thanks mostly to her drive for celebrity, became the most famous of the women hired by Spitzer -- was in fact only with him one time. And if exposing financial chicanery or getting the inside scoop on call girls aren’t your cup of tea, perhaps you’ll be drawn in by watching Spitzer fidget while Gibney asks him why he would start paying for sex in the first place. Spitzer doesn’t deny what he did, but seeing him hesitate while talking about his personal life, whereas his demeanor is proud and assertive while discussing his success as the NY AG, reveals a highly complex man, much more so than his one-time public persona as nothing more than a crusader for the powerless. Or if politics is your thing, enjoy the second half of the movie, where, after Spitzer is elected governor of New York, we learn how his take-no-prisoners style alienated the most powerful political opponents he had in Albany, specifically Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno -- a tough-minded conservative who butted heads with Spitzer publically at every opportunity. In the movie’s final 30 minutes, Gibney explains how enemies old and new coalesced to force the governor out of office by prompting the feds to investigate the call-girl service he used, and then leaking detailed court documents -- filings that didn’t name names but offered overly detailed clues about who a particular “Client 9” might be -- to newspapers so that they could expose Spitzer publically. By telling such a complex story with such clarity and detail, Client 9 solidifies Alex Gibney’s status as one of the best documentary filmmakers of his generation. But by getting all of these people -- Spitzer, Greenberg, Bruno, and others -- to open up on camera, to reveal their failings, or their anger, or their acute sense of revenge, Gibney proves himself to be a true artist, a filmmaker able to get to the heart of complicated stories as well as complicated people.