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Mad City (1997)

PG-13  |   |  Crime, Drama, Thriller  |  7 November 1997 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 15,955 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


This November, the biggest hostage negotiation is about to begin 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 pastor in the news montage is an actual pastor of the church where the filming took place for his brief interview. The crew was filming, he was watching and was talking with one of the assistant directors, who then invited him to appear in the movie. He had no prior acting experience. See more »


Max Brackett: Mrs. Banks, go make sure the buffalo are grazing properly.
See more »


References The Terminator (1984) See more »


The Prisoner Song
Courtesy of Everest Records
By Arrangement with Source/Q and LaserLight Digital
See more »

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User Reviews

Costa-Gavras is certainly worth a little of your time
9 April 2002 | by (La Rioja, Spain) – See all my reviews

A second seeing of this film recently confirmed my impressions on seeing `Missing' (1982)(qv) also a second time a few months back. Costa-Gavras has things to say and he does not mince up his message.

In `Missing' he succeeded in getting Jack Lemmon to play a convincing role, and in `Mad City' he managed to get John Travolta to carry out the best role I have seen him in: his playing of a deranged simple worker real mad at having lost his job is truly memorable. Dustin Hoffman ably supports but without exceeding himself overly.

However, rather than the actors in themselves, it is the story itself which is more important and its message: getting the story on your TV news programme before your competitors is much more important than any other considerations – such as in this case, a group of schoolchildren held hostage with a shotgun aimed at them. But do not worry about them – get the story live on TV at any price, what a scoop! what a sensation!

And thus we live at the dictates of that ogre of communications called TV: whether wars in Rwanda or Afghanistan or Palestinians blowing themselves up in Israeli cafés or airliners crashing into the WTC, the most important thing is to get it live on screen for the hungry masses. We are at the mercy of papirazzi, that merciless squad of camera-toting fame-seekers, who have no scruples at getting their story first or even inventing it.

Thanks for the message, Costa-Gavras: I learnt it long ago, but you tell it well.

21 of 30 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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