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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Mad City (1997)



Reviews and Comments

As a story, Mad City isn't half bad. John Travolta plays a laid off security guard, none too bright, who pays his old boss a visit in an attempt to persuade her to hire him again. The trouble is, he brings a shotgun and some dynamite to make her listen, and someone gets hurt. A reporter on the scene, played by Dustin Hoffman, sees this as the perfect opportunity to recover his career.

There's some good stuff going on between Travolta's and Hoffman's characters. Travolta just wants everyone to go away and forget about everything. Hoffman is torn between wanting to help and wanting his story. The interplay between these characters is the highlight of the film, and the performances are strong.

Where, then, did Mad City go wrong? It went wrong in caring less about its story than its anti-media sentiment. It uses a soapbox instead of satire to get its point across, and the results are not particularly appealing. As the movie wears on, the pacing and purpose of the story is shoved further and further into the backseat, and the anti-media message, culminating in a hammer-over-the-head repetition of a line that reminded me of the only sour note in all of The Bridge On the River Kwai, undermines everything. Anti-media films have been done several times, and a couple of them rank with the greatest films of all time (Network, for example). Mad City has nothing new to say, and it says it clumsily.