Weapons Of Mass Distraction

  • 1997
  • Movie
  • R
  • Comedy, Drama

This flawed made-for-cable feature takes a darkly humorous look at the rivalry betwen media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner. Competing to buy a pro-football team, egotistical multi-millionaires Lionel Powers (Gabriel Byrne) and Julian Messenger (Ben Kingsley) use dirty tricks--including blackmail and lewd disclosures to a tabloid TV show--to undermine...read more

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This flawed made-for-cable feature takes a darkly humorous look at the rivalry betwen media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner.

Competing to buy a pro-football team, egotistical multi-millionaires Lionel Powers (Gabriel Byrne) and Julian Messenger (Ben Kingsley) use dirty tricks--including blackmail and lewd disclosures to a tabloid TV show--to undermine each other's efforts. Unable to solve their problem during a meeting

in the desert, their war gets personal: Messenger's son and grandson are slammed with sex-assault raps and Powers' wife Ariel (Mimi Rogers) is revealed publicly to be a transsexual male prostitute; Messenger even threatens to disclose information about Powers' top-shelf penile implant.

Meanwhile, a working-class couple is grievously affected by Powers' acquisition of a phone company (part of his escalating campaign against Messenger): Jerry Pascoe (Chris Mulkey) loses his job when Powers eliminates many jobs; his struggle to find a new job causes him to argue with his wife Rita

(Illeana Douglas) and go on a drunken spree. He winds up having sex with a woman in his pickup truck. When his two children ride by in a schoolbus, he becomes disraught and runs after the bus, eventually causing it to crash in front of his house; his children are instantly killed.

Back at Powers' manse, his son is killed in a helicopter crash that Powers blames on his loyal gay assistant, Alan Blanchard (Jeffrey Tambor). Demoralized after being fired by Powers, Blanchard commits suicide. With Messinger disclosing his next devious move (a plan to reveal that Powers' father

was an informer while serving as an inmate in a concentation camp), Powers finally agrees to a team co-ownership agreement. One year later, the Pascoes are seen on a talk show discussing their tragic loss.

From the outset, it's obvious that WEAPONS is intended as a broad lampoon of the real-life competition between moguls Murdoch and Turner. Despite its comic trappings, the film clearly intends to impart a message about the ways in which the few control the many. It also focuses on the common folk

who are helpless pawns of these corporate giants--these men-in-the-middle are manipulated, blackmailed, and hung out to dry in public view. The way the film develops, however, the dark humor that could have clearly underscored this bitter message soon disappears, giving way to a more vicious

approach that winds up losing sight of the film's original objectives. Director Steven Surjik (WAYNE'S WORLD 2) does a capable job of presenting supporting characters that provoke concern, but WEAPONS is derailed by its script, the creation of seasoned comedy veteran Larry Gelbart (TOOTSIE,

NEIGHBORS). Gelbart meanders away from the Powers-Messenger story line with the unnecessary subplot concerning the Pascoes; this unfortunate diversion significantly slows down the picture and blunts its comic impact.

On the plus side, the film benefits from eye-catching camerawork from cinematographer Alar Kivilo, solid editing from Zach Staenberg, and excellent lead performances by Byrne and former Oscar-winner Kingsley (GHANDI). Both manage to restrain themselves just enough to avoid turning Powers and

Messenger into heartless caricatures. Mimi Rogers, as Powers' kinky, "altered" wife, and Jeffrey Tambor as the gay assistant, lend solid dramatic support. (Extreme profanity, adult situations, sexual situations.)

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  • Released: 1997
  • Rating: R
  • Review: This flawed made-for-cable feature takes a darkly humorous look at the rivalry betwen media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner. Competing to buy a pro-football team, egotistical multi-millionaires Lionel Powers (Gabriel Byrne) and Julian Messenger (Ben… (more)

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