Saturday, November 29, 2014

MAD CITY (1997)

Directed By: Costa-Gravas 
Written By: Tom Matthews 
Story By: Tom Matthews & Eric Williams 
Cinematography By: Patrick Blossier 
Editor: Francoise Bonnet 

Cast: John Travolta, Dustin Hoffman, Blythe Danner, Mia Kirshner, Alan Alda, Robert Prosky, William Atherton, Ted Levine, Tammy Lauren, Raymond J.Barry, Lucinda Jenney, John Landis

Sam Baily, upset over losing his job, takes a natural history museum hostage. Max Brackett, journalist, is in the museum when this occurs, and gets the scoop. The story spreads nationwide, and soon it is all anyone talks about. The story itself is the news, not the reason why or the real people behind it.

This thriller is meant to show how bloodthirsty the media has gotten and made the public the same way. It builds a person to be a hero one minute and then is ready to destroy them the next. You can't really tell if this came too late or too early.Either way it still seems to lack bite and a certain intelligence that the film needs to go above and beyond the average.

The film seeks to show how power and celebrity can corrupt and how bloodthirsty the public can become, that the media has to please them at the sake of innocents sometimes. How they barely notice the true victims and those they trample for the ratings.

This would be great if when this film came out and even now we already didn't know this. This film tries to make a statement out of what we already know or at least suspect. Making the film seem like a issue movie rather then just a story. It tries to inflect itself with characters and motivations and slow reveals, though it comes off glib and a bit preachy without really offering any answers. If the film presented its case as subtle or explained it in an uncommon way. It would be interesting, but the film is likens hand holding slow explanation of this.

I truly would be corny more and better from director Costa Gravas. Who is more of a political filmmaker with films like the excellent MISSING and Z. This films seems right up his alley, but it comes off as bland and is rigid where it should be visionary and crackling. Blatant when it should be subtle.

The film truly makes it's point clear as the film goes along. As Dustin Hoffman's character grows a conscience after all these years, in one day. I guess because he is trapped within with John Travolta's character and how his nice rookie producer grows more jaded and predatory. It's a minor development. I believe we are meant to notice the contrast.

The film seems to want to be an update on the Billy Wilder film ACE IN THE HOLE to a degree. Though lacks that films bite.

The film also seems to try and be a showcase of bringing together two marquee stars. Almost like a mash-up cd of mixing styles and beats. Unfortunately this one isn't awe inspiring as John Travolta overplays being simple or mentally handicapped, which should have made his character seem like more of a victim, who made a bad impulse decision, instead we watch him be manipulated rather easily. So it's like watching him be picked on. So that it feels like torture more then anything else.

Dustin Hoffman is good enough. Though nice to see him playing a leading role. He is clearly relishing the role and having fun with it.

The film has no dynamic to make it feel intelligent or needed. It is supposed to be a thriller, yet you feel no tension. Nor do you ever worry about the safety of any character except Travolta's and he's the one with the gun.

Grade: C-

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