Client 9
No need for a caption here.

Theatrical Release Date: 11/12/2010
Director: Alex Gibney


It’s like a dirty snow globe.

Alex Gibney has been a very busy man. Best known for his Oscar nominated documentaries “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” and “Taxi to the Dark Side” (he won the statue for that one), 2010 has seen a number of his other projects come to market: “Casino Jack and the United States of Money” and a segment of “Freakonomics“.

Now he’s back again with “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer”. I think you can guess what this one’s about from the title; and yes, it’s a chronicling of the New York Governor’s meteoric ascent and subsequent crash landing to Earth (I’ll leave it to you whether a show on CNN currently floundering in the ratings counts as a comeback or not).

Gibney goes to great detail, basically laying out all of the major points in Spitzer’s career as Attorney General for New York which led to his landslide victory in the 2006 race for the Governor’s office. Of course, somewhere along the way, his confrontational style rubbed a number of influential people the wrong way and as news of the so-called Sheriff of Wall Street utilizing high-end hookers began to emerge, it wouldn’t be long before Spitzer left public office.

What’s impressive about Gibney’s film is the people he gained access to; from those in the prostitution circles involved, NY senate members, former CEO of AIG Hank Greenberg and, of course, Spitzer himself. Getting their take on everything lays out a wealth of information though it would have been nice to get at least one statement from his wife, Silda Spitzer, who stood by him throughout the whole ordeal.

Now, like all documentaries, there is a perspective behind all of the questions and editing. Gibney’s take is that Spitzer was forced out of office unfairly, as many, many, many other public officials have been caught using escort services (and former President Clinton had multiple affairs); yet most of them merely got a minor scolding from the public, none were forced from office, and voters reelected some of them afterwards. Spitzer was known for fighting corruption on Wall Street and the people behind the money weren’t so happy to have him rooting out their scandals.

The film makes a compelling argument regarding a vendetta being laid against Spitzer but my biggest complaint stems from the almost pathological adoration shown towards him. At times when the former Governor was speaking, I wondered if the camera had panned out whether we’d see Gibney’s head buried in Spitzer’s lap. There are some tough questions posed but for the most part, it feels like a love fest.

That being said, I was still impressed at how Gibney sought to uncover as much as he could, and audiences can see past the film’s bias to make their own conclusions. The film is anything but brief, running at nearly two hours, but unlike “Casino Jack” which felt like its feet were stuck in the mud, “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer” moves at a decent pace; speaking not only to the personal journey of its subject but also the corruption within the system and gets a 4 out of 5.

4 out of 5