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Costa-Gravas' film 'Mad City' tells the story of an idiot who decides to turn around his life by taking hostages; needless to say, it doesn't end well. The film is also a satire on the media, happy to watch bad things happening (or even to make bad things happen) as long as there's a story: now Donald Trump is President-elect, this point certainly bears re-telling. But regarding the set-up, there's an obvious reference point, the brilliant Sidney Lumet film 'Dog Day Afternoon', and sadly, that movie puts this one well into the shade. The characters in 'Mad City' are unfortunately one-dimensional and the film's cards are unambiguously on the table throughout. For all their A-list status, stars Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta fail to bring the uninspiring script to life.
Hard-hitting ratings-obsessed investigative TV reporter Max Brackett
(Dustin Hoffman) is sent to the Museum of Natural History to do a story
about its financial difficulties. Recently fired security guard Sam
Baily (John Travolta) locks down the museum and takes everybody
including a group of school kids hostage. Laurie Callahan (Mia
Kirshner) is Max's inexperienced camera person outside. Lou Potts
(Robert Prosky) is the station manager and Dohlen (William Atherton) is
the local anchor. While arguing with the curator Mrs. Banks (Blythe
Danner), Sam accidentally shoots his fellow guard Cliff (Bill Nunn).
The situation escalates into a media circus. Network anchor Kevin
Hollander (Alan Alda) reluctantly takes over the broadcast despite
mistrusting Brackett. Chief Lemke (Ted Levine) leads the local cops.
Travolta tries too hard with his hang-dog face. He gets a bit annoying by acting too much. He would be more scary and more depressed by being quieter. At first, I wondered if he's trying to play a slow character and if it would be better for him to be more normal. The movie does a functional job skewering the news media. Hoffman is a solid selfish newsman. This is not that great but it gets by.
Costa-Gavras's Mad City has too many familiar elements ranging from Dog
Day Afternoon to Falling Down to Ace in the Hole but something has gone
awry in the screenplay as its neither sharp nor with grim humour.
John Travolta is Sam Baily a museum security guard that has been laid off sue to budget cuts. He is so embarrassed that he has not told his wife of his joblessness. Seething with anger he goes to the museum and holds his boss (Blythe Danner) and a class of visiting school children hostage at gunpoint which recklessly goes off and wounds his form workmate.
Also trapped in the museum is Max Brackett (Dustin Hoffman) who sees and opportunity to take advantage by broadcasting on the sly live on the local news. When Sam catches him, Max exploits Sam's naivety to bolster his own flagging career by promising Sam to spin the news to make him popular and allow him to air his grievances to the media.
Mad City shows how a minor incident spirals out of control and becomes a national incident. Before long the FBI takeover from the local police, the major networks come down hard on both Brackett and Bailey and no one is quiet in control as they thought they were.
The film is proficiently directed by Costa-Gavras but I expected more rather than a reminder of previous films dealing with a similar subject matter that did it better.
Mad City has star power but low wattage.
Travolta does a superb job of playing a semi-educated yet noble working
man who doesn't know how to deal with bad luck. He doesn't even
understand that his lay-off isn't his fault and nothing can be done
about it. He stumbles into a hostage taking situation and initially is
too upset to agree to anything, including immediate surrender. The
theme is not altogether incredible in our times an embittered employee
going berserk and threatening violence. Problem is that Travolta is
saddled with the challenge to portray this unwitting hostage-taker,
part antagonist and part victim. I'd contend that he failed to bring
out this delicate dichotomy. Even Hoffman's full-blooded newsman with a
childish, self-centered ambition and some very sardonic light moments
in the earlier half, cannot save the film from its maudlin second half,
by which time it's already too late for us to care. The screenwriters
added bit of humor to this involving story and that made it even
better. It's a decent entertainment and certainly recommended.
Overall rating: 7 out of 10.
This film really shows you, much more than others what media people can do, and what they really can be like, like enthusiastic newbie (Kirshner) assigned with journalist, Hoffman on a job, her first, to interview a museum director. I hope, she likes to wait it out, cause it will be a long one coming, as disgruntled nutter/employee Travolta, takes over the museum, holding a school class hostage, as well as Hoffman, who I guess made a mistake, of going to the bathroom. But really, could this be a mistake, as just think what this story will do. It could put him back with big runners, where years prior, he had a falling out with big wig reporter (Alda) who returns, stealing the story, and manipulating the truth. Mad City becomes mostly a one set piece, inside the museum, as the hours dwindle, and tempers and frustration build. Yes, we've seen movies like this before, like Dog Day Afternoon, relying on Hoffman and Travolta to steer the story. I never felt bored with this, and found this film deliciously entertaining, where the story and plot is kept in check, never veering away, or losing sight of it's objective, with one dynamite finale, tragic, sad, but disturbing too, as for the heartlessness, or some media, especially Kirshner, where at the end, I truly found her attitude sickening. This is a story of an everyday man, once an air force pilot, quite hard to believe with Travolta's mummy like character (throwing tantrums, e.g. palm slapping the head repeatedly) that this pro does it well, trying to beat the odds and providing for his family, ejected from his job, as to cut down costs. It's such a tired and real tale, and makes this film more potent. Hoffman is in top form, where I'm really glad he did it, where him and J.T. make a great team, and I really liked the friendship that formed here. It really added something special to this film. Performances are good all around, Danner especially, as the bitter old museum director. Although Mad City missed a cinema release, where the poster was put up, it's one I'm glad I caught. Although a little hammy, it's a near two hour entertainer, hostage drama, that will keep you glued to the screen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Mad City (1997): Dir: Constantin Costa Gavras / Cast: John Travolta, Dustin Hoffman, Mia Kershner, Alan Alda, Ted Levine: Miserable little item that deserves to be tossed in a fireplace. It regards hysteria created by media about events that they know absolutely nothing about. Dustin Hoffman plays a news anchorman who is inside a museum when John Travolta holds several children and a few adults hostage. He was recently laid off as a security guard at the museum unable to provide for his family. Hoffman wishes to help and even arranges an interview where Travolta voices regrets with regards to an injured security guard. Typical setup travels formula before arriving at an ultra cheap ending. Director Constantin Costa Gavras throws in a lame rap song about the injured security guard, which plays as really bad mishandled humour. Why not throw in a few funny Jay Leno monologues while we're at it? Hoffman is a terrific actor but even he cannot bring dignity to this piece of sh*t. All he can do is wait until the idiot conclusion hits. Travolta falls into overacting as he expresses regret over a complete idiotic action on his part. Also features uninspiring work by Mia Kershner and Alan Alda who do their best to frig up Hoffman's story to their brand of corruption. It regards media meddling at its most annoying and its delivery could drive a person mad. Score: 1 / 10
Mad City was released in 1997, and even with two major stars above the title, did not fare well at the U.S. box office. Here it is the last month of 2014 and wow, does Mad City seem all the more relevant today. The film exposes the manipulation and deceit that takes place by the so-called news organizations, and what seemed shockingly outrageous and exaggerated in 1997 is no match for the biased, opinionated news reporting that is fed today to the unsuspecting public. John Travolta gives one of his best performances as a recently fired museum security guard. Dustin Hoffman is equally compelling as a rogue former network correspondent. Alan Alda is the ruthless network anchor who will do anything to take ownership of a breaking story. It's all about ego for those in front of the camera, and eyeballs and ratings for the suits at the major networks. Definitely worth watching even if it's just for the performances of Travolta and Hoffman.
(18%) A very typical, tame Hollywood stab at a hostage situation drama with focus on the news media manipulation of real life and death situations. Quite honestly this is a poor movie. Dustin Hoffman is borderline terrible as he lazily mutters his way through the entire movie acting almost as bored as the poor unfortunate audience, as if I had paid money to see this then I'd feel more than a little cheated. While Travolta is far from on form, but at least he's as entertaining to watch as he usually is. The script is lame brained Hollywood trash that has an interesting and important concept of a man going above and beyond to try and get his job back, but it is so poorly developed that Travolta's character comes across more as an idiot than someone worthy of any sympathy. Couple that with the kidnapped kids having no real problem with armed men keeping them hostage away from their homes and family for days on end, and the final reel that has a terrible sense of pointlessness about it. My advice, give this 90's flop a miss.
All of his fantastic work gets thrown out of the window with this cliché driven film. Each and every character and every line of this film is a cliché. This continues another long line of John Travolta films that prove that 80 percent of his films and the portrayals in them are horrible. This might be one of his worst. He does the same acting tricks that he did in "Michael" and "Phenomenon." I watch this, and I cannot help but laugh at how bad he is. And if you believe for one second that this scenario could actually happen, then you are sorely mislead and misled. All of the other actors can't be criticized as badly as Travolta; they probably thought that working with Costa-Gavras was an honor and they are only as good (bad) as the script. Gavras must have been near the end of his career and the likely scenario is that an American Studio believed that having his name on the film was good business.
I love Dustin Hoffman. He is an actor who will rarely sell you short
(not pun intended) he is fantastic in everything I have seen him in,
from 'Marathon Man' and 'Kramer V's Kramer' his Oscar winning turn in
'Rain Man' or 'Mr Magoriums Wonder Emporium' and 'Tootsie'. He is
always a delight to watch, and the fact that he teams up with A popular
again (thanks to 'Pulp Fiction') John Travolta should have made this
immediate viewing. But for some reason this movie escaped me.
And the main reason is probably Travolta, I liked him growing up thanks to 'Grease', 'Saturday Night Fever' 'Stayin' Alive' and 'Look Who's Talking' but as I entered my teens I became bored of him, I thought his turn in 'Pulp Fiction' was over rated, and although I enjoyed 'Phenomenon' nothing else I'd seen him in convinced me otherwise.
An out of favour reporter (Hoffman) is sent to a Museum to cover a "bit of fluff" story and finds himself in the middle of a great story when a sacked security guard (Travolta) takes some visiting children hostage.
Of the supporting cast Robert Prosky was solid as Hoffman's boss, and Mia Krishner as his ambitious protégé Laurie is OK. Alan Alda is as wonderful as he always is as the egotistical anchorman.
Hoffman is as reliable as you'd expect as the reporter who manipulates the situation up help revive his career. But Travolta is the star here, his likable, every man who is down on his luck has you rooting for him, despite the fact that he is holding children hostage at gunpoint.
Given the talent on show I'm surprised this failed to find an audience.
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