Here at my house, we endorse movies that feature hero journalists who solve crimes that leave the police stumped. How disappointing, then, that State of Play's byline-generator Cal McAffrey has to be played by an unkempt Russell Crowe, whose ugly long hair and full beard appears to be a veritable condominium for the insect world. State of Play is a political whodunit in the fashion of Murder at 1600 or Absolute Power—the kind of movie where the Big Lawbreaker invariably turns out to be one of the guys making the laws in the first place. While the cops wring their hands and warn D.C.-based writer Crowe not to do their job, he does their job anyway, and oh, the leads he uncovers! While investigating the mysterious death of a woman in the employ of Congressman Ben Affleck (an old friend of Crowe's! What are the odds?!), Crowe gets tongue-lashed boringly and interminably by his editor, Helen Mirren, with beautiful Rachel McAdams playing Carl Bernstein to his Bob Woodward. The stellar cast is rounded out by Jeff Daniels and Jason Bateman, with Crowe tackling the role vacated by both Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. I found the movie to be rather by-the-numbers, feeling like I'd seen it a million times before. The actors are adequate, the script is adequate, the direction is adequate...and State of Play ends up creepily familiar and completely implausible. Rating: 2/5.