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Street Fight (2005): 3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This Oscar nominee for Best Documentary Feature tells the harrowing tale of a dirty Newark, New Jersey mayoral race: underdog Cory Booker takes on veteran incumbent Sharpe James in the 2002 election. James is one of those crafty politicians who appears charming and likeable but really has the city in the grips of corruption; many citizens are frankly terrified of speaking out against him. Director Marshall Curry apparently set out to make an objective film about the election, but the Sharpe camp would not allow much filming when they found out he had been hanging around with Booker. (He includes footage of James's stooges harassing him and grabbing his camera.) Booker, on the plus side, comes across as a good-looking, hard-working man of the people, with a bold, passionate, educated voice (he was a Rhodes Scholar, attended Yale Law School and played Stanford football). There's no question which side Curry favors, but he turns Street Fight into an old fashioned political yarn, featuring hand-pumping and baby-kissing, but also a dash of blood fury. Spike Lee appears recording a phone message endorsement for Booker.

Note: in 2006, Booker intends to run once again, but Sharpe has not yet thrown his hat into the ring.

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