Back in 1992, Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker's The War Room showed how spin doctors in backrooms managed Bill Clinton's presidential campaign. Ten years later, director Marshall Curry follows the street fight for the mayoralty of Newark, New Jersey, between old-timer Sharpe James and newcomer Cory Booker.
Both are Democrats, and both are black, but that is where the similarity stops. While the Yale-educated 32-year-old idealist Booker fights his battles with facts and arguments, the 66-year-old self-made James plays on sentiment. But this is not all. Curry reveals how the city police, as the strong arm of incumbent James, play a dubious role in the campaign. Booker's election posters are removed, the companies that support him are fined or closed down, and he himself is repeatedly barred from public places. And then there is the incident in which someone from the Booker camp is branded a terrorist and removed from a meeting.
Meanwhile, the documentary filmmakers have their own problems, as bruisers from the James camp repeatedly send them packing as they try to film an election rally. Owing to his perseverance and ironic comments, Curry provides a humorous glimpse behind the scenes of an election that has little to do with the American democratic ideal.