Mad City (1997)

PG-13  |   |  Crime, Drama, Thriller  |  7 November 1997 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 16,101 users   Metascore: 45/100
Reviews: 69 user | 58 critic | 23 from

A disgruntled security guard holds a school trip group hostage, while a news reporter forms a bond with him.



(screenplay), (story), 1 more credit »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lou Potts
Mrs. Banks
Miss Rose
CTN Junior Executive
Bingwa ...
Nat Jackson


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 nation wide, and soon it is all anyone talks about. The story itself is the news, not the reason why or the real people behind it. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


One man will make a mistake. The other will make it a spectacle. See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for depiction of a hostage situation, including violence and brief language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

7 November 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El cuarto poder  »

Box Office


$50,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$4,649,742 (USA) (7 November 1997)


£533,374 (UK) (24 July 1998)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

| |



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The woman who plays the cop with the shotgun in the trailer is Teresa O'Kane, actress and author of the book Safari Jema, A Journey of Love and Adventure from Casablanca to Cape Town. See more »


Kevin Hollander: I'm who Americans trust for their news.
Max Brackett: You really shouldn't let a marketing slogan go your head.
See more »


Referenced in Hollywood Remembers Dustin Hoffman (2000) See more »


Cliff's Theme Song
Written by Steven Lazaneo and Costa-Gavras (as Costa Gavras)
Performed by Steven Lazaneo pka Automatic, Norman Berry (as Chill E.B.), Omar Lima and Chad Russell
See more »

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User Reviews

Unfairly overlooked; best examination of media power and corruption
4 February 2000 | by (Cincinnati, Ohio) – See all my reviews

I was so depressed when I left this movie - depressed in a good way though, in the way the filmmakers wanted me to be. "The media has become an out-of-control circus," I thought to myself. Certainly not an original thought or insight, and not extremely different from many other movies and stories out there with a similar message. The difference with "Mad City", though, was that it didn't play this insight for satire or sly comedy. There's an anger and a sadness that runs through the entire movie - a burning regret that this is the way things have to be. The filmmakers could have easily reached for humor or gaudy overstatement to make their points (as was done, say, in "Network" or "Natural Born Killers") but instead they keep most everything at the human level, and that makes all the difference. We come to feel really bad for the Travolta character; the screenwriters' making him such a simpleton is, I'll admit, a bit manipulative, but as manipulations go it's a good one and a smart one - it lets us see the toll in human terms of the media frenzy. Dustin Hoffman and particularly Alan Alda are expert in their roles as media sharks, and the sort of Mutt and Jeff (or perhaps George and Lenny) relationship which Hoffman and Travolta get into here is really marvelous. It has beats of comedy to it, while never being anything less than totally serious (kind of like Hoffman and Cruise in "Rain Man" - though the film never strains for that connection).

I think of this movie often in conjunction with "Wag the Dog," Hoffman's other movie that year and for me it's no comparison: "Wag the Dog" is gleefully cynical, seems to take real joy in the media being so ever-present and the audience being so easily conned. For me, that rings as hollow satire; "Mad City" by truly trying to examine and get us to think about (not just laugh at) the media's power is miles away the better film.

13 of 17 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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