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City Hall
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Reviews & Ratings for
City Hall More at IMDbPro »

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29 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Can't decide if it's thriller or drama

7/10
Author: Sean Gallagher (seankgallagher@yahoo.com) from Brooklyn, NY
20 March 1999

I had been long awaiting this movie ever since I saw the trailer, which made it look like a political drama, starring three of my favorite actors; Al Pacino, John Cusack, and Bridget Fonda. And even though it was directed by Harold Becker, who has done uneven work, he and Pacino did combine on SEA OF LOVE, which ranks among each of their best work. But interference on some level(for starters, several of the scenes in the original trailer don't appear in the movie) and changing of tone(subsequent trailers make it look like a thriller) make this, while watchable, nowhere near as it could have been.

Which is too bad, because I really wanted to like this movie. There was great potential here to be a film about how government can still be worthwhile despite all the corruption, and to make a complex statement about that corruption, not the usual good guys vs. bad guys. And there is good acting here. Pacino and Cusack are both very good, and Danny Aiello gives one of the best performances of his career. But Fonda is wasted in her role, having nothing to do, and while there is merit in the central storyline, when it turns to a thriller, the movie loses its way, briefly recovers in the final scene between Cusack and Pacino, and then falls down completely in the end. I wish I could like this more, but no.

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32 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

Good.

Author: yisraelh
3 September 2005

I liked this neglected movie quite a bit, for a number of reasons.

The characters. I found them believable, real, with some depth, in conflict. Not cardboard, cartoon-like. I found that I could really identify with and care about them.

The story. I thought it was really interesting and realistic. The behind-the-scenes look at political machinations was exciting. I tend to like movies without special effects, that are not unrealistic fantasies. ("Ordinary People" generally comes to my mind.) I thought that this movie simply took real-life type people, put them in interesting situations, filled with conflict, and had us watch them deal with the problems they were in.

I also think the movie had a message for us, in terms of right and wrong. In fact, it's downright Shakespearian. (Contrast this with another Al Pacino movie, "Heat", where the criminals are portrayed just as sympathetically as the law enforcement officers, and there is no inkling at all that there is anything morally wrong with armed robbery. I'm uncomfortable with that.)

It's refreshing to see a movie in this day and age without gratuitous sex, violence, bombs and bullets, profanity.

On a cinematic level, I found the directing, acting (the entire cast) and production to be first rate.

I realize that many, many people (possibly the large majority) don't see things as I've described here. But if what I've written resonates, then you'll probably like this movie a lot.

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16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Entertaining

Author: ctomvelu from usa
17 August 2003

This is a movie for John Cusack fans. He is in almost every scene as a mayoral aide who gets in way over his head trying to solve a murder mystery involving a drug dealer, a lonewolf cop and a six-year-old boy. Cusack has definitely grown into serious adult roles, as this film makes abundantly clear. Pacino is also topnotch as a crusading mayor who harbors a terrible secret. He is in control and charismatic as hell. Watch for the funeral scene where he sways what could have been a very hostile crowd. Danny Aiello also is terrific as a Brooklyn borough chief in bed with the mafia. Too bad the shaky script wasn't up to the acting. Is this a drama or an action piece? It wavers back and forth. But even if you figure out the resolution early on, which my kid did less than halfway through, this may keep you reasonably spellbound. A little too talky, although some pretty good dialogue.

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20 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Intelligent political thriller not pretending anything

8/10
Author: pivko from Prague, Czech Republic
23 January 2002

Well, there is a plenty of ways how to spoil a political thriller. Usually they are derivative or too ambitious, often they feature a conspiracy that is totally paranoic and unbelievable. But City Hall does not do neither of the above mentioned. The plot is cleverly crafted, story is believable. As far as characters go I would say this movie is a solid average. No character seems out of place and Al Pacino is brilliant as always. His portrayal of a charismatic NYC mayor is superb and proves again that Al Pacino belongs to the absolute top of American actors nowadays.

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21 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

Excellent acting and a wonderfully quiet script

8/10
Author: Richard Brunton from Edinburgh, Scotland
10 July 2000

Excellent political thriller, played much quieter and slower than other, higher ranking films in this genre. When people talk about Pacino and Cusack how do they manage to skip over these amazing career topping performances? A story of friendships, father-son relationships, corruption and deceit. The two actors gel amazingly well together, and the supports from Aiello and Fonda are equally as impressive, although Aiello is brilliant, especially when the papers run to press. Instead of focussing on an over complex corruption scandal, it creates wonderful characters who show the human side of failure an political bribery, The final scenes with each of the main characters are wonderfully written and acted.

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14 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Politics in The Big Apple

8/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
4 June 2006

Being a transplanted New Yorker, I might be more critical than most in watching City Hall. But I have to say that before even getting to the story itself I was captivated by the location shooting and the political atmosphere of New York City that Director Harold Becker created.

For example there's a reference to Woerner's Restaurant in Brooklyn where political boss Frank Anselmo likes to eat. There is or was a Woerner's Restaurant on Remsen Street in downtown Brooklyn when I lived in New York back in 1996. It was in fact particularly favored by political people in the Borough though they did have a couple of other hangouts.

No surprise because the script was co-authored by Nicholas Pileggi who still writes both political and organized crime stories. He knows the atmosphere quite well and he sure knows how those two worlds cross as they do in this film.

A detective played by Nestor Serrano goes for an unofficial meeting with a relative of mob boss Anthony Franciosa and things erupt and three people wind up dead, including an innocent 6 year old boy whose father was walking him to school. The story mushrooms and at the end it's reached inside City Hall itself.

Al Pacino plays Mayor John Pappas and John Cusack is his Deputy Mayor a transplanted Louisianan, a state which has a tradition of genteel corruption itself. He's the outsider here and in trying to do damage control, Cusack finds more than he bargained for,

Danny Aiello plays Brooklyn political boss Frank Anselmo and for those of you not from New York, his character is based on the late Borough President of Queens Donald Manes who was also brought down by scandal. He's very much the kind of Brooklyn politician I knew back in the day whose friendship with organized crime and favors done for them, do Aiello in.

City Hall was the farewell performance on film for Anthony Franciosa, one of the most underrated and under-appreciated talents ever on the screen. No one watches anyone else whenever he's on.

Al Pacino's best moment is when at the funeral of the young child killed, he takes over the proceedings and turns it into a political triumph for himself. His is a complex part, he's a decent enough man, but one caught up in the corruption it takes to rise in a place like New York.

For those who want to know about political life in the Big Apple, City Hall is highly recommended.

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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A great film, very underrated, never outdated

9/10
Author: Kotter7579 from California, USA
9 April 2004

This is one of the best crime-drama movies during the late 1990s. It was filled with a great cast, a powerful storyline, and many of the players involved gave great performances. Pacino was great; he should have been nominated for something. John Cusack was good too, as long as the viewer doesn't mind his Louuu-siana accent. He may come off as annoying if you can't stand this dialect. The way that Pacino's character interacted with Cusack's character was believable, dramatic, and slightly comical at times. Danny Aiello was superb as always. David Paymer was great in a supporting role. Bridget Fonda was good but not memorable. There were times when this picture mentioned so many characters, probably too many. It may take a second viewing to remember, "which Zapatti was which?" After so many cross-references, one has to stop and think just to recap. The ending didn't have a lot of sting. It was built up for so long and then was a bit of a letdown. This was one of the few problems with the film. Since the movie wasn't billed as a "huge, blockbuster" big screen hit, it made some forget that this movie even existed. Pacino and Aiello were great but the film's lack of "splash" in the theaters may have accounted for no nominations. It was semi-successful in the home market, and viewers are still learning that this title is out there. Made in 1996, it still stands up today and will remain popular for many years to come.

So, make yourself some lemon pudding (you'll see) and see this movie!

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Another Smooth Political Talker

6/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
19 March 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One thing that shocked me about this film, considering the cast, was the small amount of profanity. I mean, with Al Pacino, John Cusack, Bridget Fonda and Danny Aiello, I didn't expect this low-key a film. Aiello and Cusack not uttering one swear word? Wow, that's almost unheard of in films.

The story is very low-key, maybe too much so for a lot of people which includes me at times, but I enjoyed this. In fact, just watching and listening to Pacino and Cusack in this movie was plenty of entertainment. They played a mayor and a deputy mayor, respectively.

However, to be honest, I didn't always comprehend what was going on in the story. Apparently the mayor knew what was going on all the time and it was just business (or politics) as usual, for him.

Pacino's speech at the funeral of the young black kid was outstanding. Talk about a smooth political orator! Pacino played New York City Mayor "John Pappas." He reminded me a lot of another New Yorker, former governor Mario Cuomo who, although I disagreed with many of his statements, was a smooth talker like Pacino's character in here. I wonder if they modeled "Pappas" after Cuomo?

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Power corrupts and...

10/10
Author: rps-2 from Bracebridge Ont
19 November 2005

Has Al Pacino ever been in a bad movie? His name seems to be an imprimatur for top notch cinema. This is as good a performance as he's ever given. Pacino is an American Olivier. And this is a political thriller as good as they get. There are no good guys and no bad guys. But the system has its inexorable effect on the people who think they're running it. Not only is Pacino's performance compelling --- the eulogy at the dead child's funeral is awesomely powerful --- the film has a fast paced, gritty realism to it that enhances the fine performances without resorting to gimmicks. This outstanding portrait of big city politics also manages to provide two hours of superb movie watching without undue violence, overheated sex or gutter language. There is murder. There are bad people. But they come across effectively without crossing the line. A film like this restores my jaded faith in Hollywood. I don't award many tens. This one richly deserves it!

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The Mayor & His Deputy

5/10
Author: AaronCapenBanner from North America
30 November 2013

Harold Becker directed this political drama that stars Al Pacino as New York City Mayor John Pappas, who must deal with the aftermath of an accidental shooting involving a young boy that threatens his party's re-election chances. John Cusack is deputy mayor Kevin Calhoun, who launches his own investigation into the matter, and is shocked to find scandal and corruption that threatens to ruin his reverence and respect for his boss, who is an eloquent speaker, but since when does that equal virtue and honesty? Danny Aiello, Bridget Fonda, & Martin Landau round out a fine cast, which is really the best thing about this marginal film that never quite reaches the heights of profound revelatory drama it aspires to, coming up short in the end.

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