Mad City (1997) Poster

(1997)

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9/10
A Dog Day Afternoon At The Museum
ccthemovieman-119 May 2006
Man, this was some indictment of the television-reporter-mentality! It was exaggerated, of course, but still interesting to see and in many respects good to see because of the onslaught of tabloid-mentality journalism that seems to have taken over the media in recent years. That kind of "reporting" should be exposed and ridiculed.

Whatever, you can enjoy this film for the acting alone with Dustin Hoffman, John Travolta, Alan Alda, Robert Prosky, Mia Kirschner and Ted Levine. These actors, and some good dialog, make the film move along at a good clip despite the absence of much happening on screen.

The story gets you involved and reminds me of the famous 70s film, Dog Day Afternoon, in which much of the film takes place in a bank. Here, it's a museum, and a man is in a predicament something like Al Pacino was in that film except Travolta's character here is totally innocent.

The screenwriters added bit of humor to this involving story and that made it even better. It's very good entertainment and certainly recommended.
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The most underrated film of 1997
Verbal-1728 October 1998
I'll be the first one to admit that this is not a movie for

everyone- it's not your average mainstream Hollywood movie. However, it IS a brilliant, scathing satire of the media's true power in modern-day society. Instead of going for overkill like the pathetic "Natural Born Killers," this movie uses dark comedy, brilliant performances, and genuine thrills to create one of the most clever and powerful social commentaries to be seen in film in years. If you're expecting a typical Hollywood thriller with a formula plot and a nice, neat ending then you'll be disappointed, but if you're looking for a smart, powerful film with brilliant performances by Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta, then I would recommend this movie. In a time when events like the O.J. Simpson trial make the media's influence in our society more than apparent, it's refreshing to see a movie willing to stare this issue right in the face.
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8/10
a show of life
Mickey Knox12 November 2000
MAD CITY is exciting and thrilling from the first scene.

A talented success-hunting reporter is sent by his boss to a totally not interesting job: to do a story about a museum with financiary problems. Upset and defeated, DUSTIN HOFFMAN's character goes there and has the chance of running into what will prove to be the story of his life: a guy enters the museum and takes everyone inside hostage. It's a smart movie, just because it debates themes that can only lead to smart scenes. Probably the best thing about MAD CITY are the actors: Travolta and Hoffman are great in their roles and they add an extra-value to the movie by the way they act.

What if you really need money to support your family and you just got fired? How far are you able to go to get your job back? Far enough to enter a museum and threat the owner with a gun? Surely. But what if by mistake you do something that you can't get out from? That's Travolta's situation.

What if all your life you aimed for a great story that will totally change everything about you? How far are you able to go? Far enough to play the victim's life in your hands an organise a live show from which you practically doom him to death? That's Hoffman's situation.

The plot grows rapidly and it's very convincing. And the ending is the only one possible.

Costa-Gavras does a great job with this movie and manages to mantain balance between the characters and the action. Good job. Vote: 8 out of 10.
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8/10
Excellent depiction as to the power of the national news media
Adam Samuelson18 March 2005
I just finished watching this movie and I must say that I am awestruck. Everyone around the globe should be exposed to the truth of what the national news media has at their fingertips, the power to move the public opinion to one side or the other. This film exemplifies to the last period exactly what I fear so many are ignorant to, and that is the fact that what we see and hear on our televisions everyday lies in the palm of executives and celebrities (news anchors) who run the networks. I was amazed at the amount of detail that was put into this film to show exactly that. Nothing is left unsaid. Bravo to a production all too unknown.
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8/10
Unfairly overlooked; best examination of media power and corruption
krumski4 February 2000
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.
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6/10
Costa-Gavras is certainly worth a little of your time
Keith F. Hatcher9 April 2002
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.
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7/10
one man's insanity reigns after he loses his job
helpless_dancer29 March 1999
Interesting look at an emotionally crippled man as he goes out of control after losing his job. He holds several children and a few adults hostage in a museum after the curator refused to discuss his termination. One of the hostages is a newsman who winds up acting as the liaison between the police and the gunman. The situation leads to national prominence, drawing in an unscrupulous network newsman who only wanted to feather his own nest with the story. Good movie about a not unbelievable happening.
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7/10
Media Frenzy leads to...
Maxi-1425 October 1999
This movie gets off to a slow start. To be honest it doesn't build much suspense. It does, however, have a message about modern society. People have a fascination with crisis situations and media personalities feed on that fact like sharks in a frenzy. That can lead situations to escalate out of control.

Dustin Hoffman stole the show as Max Brackett. A fellow viewer couldn't believe that he was the same man that had played in Rainman. He delivers a standout performance as TV news reporter Max Brackett who is looking to inject life back into his career but at the same time retains some sense of compassion and justice. The forces battle inside him through out the film.

John Travolta was on the money but not stellar as Sam Bailey, a recently unemployed security guard on the cusp of losing everything that he owns. Sam is a bit of low watt bulb, but he is basically a good person caught up in a very bad choice and situation that runs awry of his plans. He is very distraught about his situation and popping caffiene pills to stay awake doesn't help his state of mind much either. Not one of Travolta's best but it is still good.

What a pleasure to watch Alan Alda in front of the camera again. As Kevin Hollander he is the guy that you love to hate. Hollander is Max Brackett's nemesis and antagonist. Alda easily departs from his compassionate portrayal of Dr. Haweye Pierce on TV's MASH for this one.

This isn't a perfect film but it is a good one. It will leave you thinking about the message that it has. The acting is good to great.
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7/10
Another Costa-Gavras Movie
Gustavo Bastos2 July 1999
Costa-Gavras is known as a political director and the most part of his movies are intriguing and makes us thinking about our way of see/accept the political facts in world. Although this movie is not necessarily political, makes us thinking at this time, about the influence of the media in the facts and in our lives. In this movies, two different lives had being linked by a casual meeting in a museum: A reporter (Dustin Hoffman) whose career was marked by a mistake made in a network, is trying to "resurrect" his work making a report about a financial scandal when he's sent to make a report in a museum. At the same time, a guard of the museum (John Travolta), fired some days before because of cut of budget, goes there trying to have a conversation with the manager and convince her to give his job back. At the same time that the reporter realizes it can be a resurrection for him, the things run out of control when other media reporter challenges the guard and him... Besides the excellent performances of Hoffman and Travolta, Costa-Gavras makes once more, a very smart movie that can't be missed.
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Intellectually thrilling - one for the grown-ups.
philipdavies25 April 2003
A brilliant examination of our media-driven culture, by a film-maker who has lost none of the passion and intelligence which previously crafted such definitive political thrillers as 'Z' and 'State of siege'. I am staggered that Costa-Gavras could bring this one off while actually working within the American media empire he excoriates!

There's enough stuff here to keep any serious media-studies or political theory courses in seminars and theses for years! I immediately bought a video copy after seeing it - in Glorious SpottiVision - on Britain's quirkily watchable Channel 5; I shall be giving it regular viewings from now on. Few and far between are such examples of intellectually adult and satisfying cinema these days. Truly one to savour, unless you prefer to leave your brains out when watching films.

And Travolta's performance as the wretched ex-guard - a far from simple simpleton - is a revelation: The man is magnificent - Oscar-worthy - the great Hoffman is forced to accept a supporting role!

A great, widely misunderstood film by a true master of cinema.
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8/10
More Realistic Than We Like To Admit...
jcanettis10 September 2005
When I first saw that "Mad City" had an average rating of 6.0 in IMDb, I got a little confused: Why doesn't it get something higher? After all, it features a great direction by Costa-Gavras, good performances (especially from the lead actors), and an interesting plot. So why did it not get something like an 8.0, the grade I voted for the film? It occurs to me that a possible reason for a restrained vote might be that many people are perhaps not ready to admit that what is shown in the film is the naked reality: In other words, it is difficult for some to swallow that today the events are not simply portrayed, but are actually shaped by the media, and especially the TV; the news people can make someone a hero, and at the next moment make him a hated man; they can produce a big story out of nothing, and they can sweep a significant event under the carpet without anyone noticing.

Costa-Gavras illustrates this vividly in "Mad City". Sam (Travolta) has been fired from his job as a security guard in a museum. In desperation, he goes to his employer armed with a gun and explosives, trying to make a pointless request to have his job back. However, things get out of hand as he accidentally shoots a former colleague, and he decides to take some kids hostage. The above events unfold in front of the eyes of Max (Hoffman), a TV reporter whose career has flopped, who happens to be there. Max immediately takes advantage of his golden opportunity, and gets the scoop. Sam follows Max's directions, and the media industry gradually shapes the developments of the saga, with the authorities mainly watching rather than influencing the events.

It may sound exaggerated, but sadly this is how things work today. Publicity is everything, and criminals of all stripes, from naive types such as Sam, to sinister ones, want to use media to convey their message through their deplorable acts; media people, from their side, mainly care to get high ratings, and hence try to exploit such situations towards their own advantage, not the advantage of the general public. The result is ugly, and the few exceptions simply confirm the rule.

Costa-Gavras has done a great job in portraying this problem through this fictional, yet interesting story. Both Hoffman and Travolta are very convincing in their roles, the first as the ruthless journalist who starts to see the light, and the second as the confused, victim-cum-criminal.

I believe "Mad City" is a movie that one has to view with an open mind. If this happens, you will never watch the 8 o' clock news in the same angle as before... 8/10.
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Throughly ordinary, despite good two performances
rc22311 January 1999
Proof that taking on Big Subjects won't result in a Big Movie without some imagination or originality. Why has TV become Hollywood's bogeyman for the very late twentieth century? Mad City has an almost identical storyline to Billy Wilder's 1951 classic Ace in the Hole, still the best movie about media ethics.
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9/10
The Media Drives The Message
bkoganbing25 March 2009
Mad City is almost a remake of Billy Wilder's Ace In The Hole with a bit of Network thrown in. The Kirk Douglas part has shifted to a television reporter and it's played with relish by Dustin Hoffman. By sheer chance Hoffman is in the Museum Of Natural History when a security guard who's been laid off due to budget cuts, pulls a shotgun out of canvas bag and holds museum director Blythe Danner, a school teacher and her class who were out on a field trip just as the museum is closing. Oh and he accidentally shoots his former co-worker security guard Bill Nunn as well. That kind of seals his fate.

As good as Dustin Hoffman is the film really belongs to John Travolta as the desperate security guard, a slow witted kind of man who really hasn't thought through what he's doing. Hoffman realizing he's got an exclusive story becomes Travolta's media adviser, stringing it out for all it's worth.

Travolta has to walk a fine line in this film, balancing his character's situation in his portrayal. We empathize with him, many of us who have ever been desperate and without a paycheck, but we can't sympathize with a man who's holding a whole bunch of grade school kids hostage. Sam Bailey ranks as one of the two or three best pieces of work John Travolta has ever done.

In the meantime Hoffman who is also mentoring young reporter Mia Kirshner, too well as it turns out, has also got a rivalry with network anchor Alan Alda. One thing I've noticed about Alan Alda, since he's left MASH, he's gone out of his way to take roles that are the farthest thing from good guy Hawkeye Pierce. He and Hoffman hate each other and Alda's attempts to spin the story his way and Hoffman's countermoves are what really set up the inevitable climax.

Mad City is not very nice look at the news business and what people will do to get a story. The film has its roots not only in Ace In The Hole and Network, but you could make a case going all the way back to Five Star Final and other films showing the darker side of reporting and the agenda driven people in that business.

Sad to say is that the news is business, show business in fact. In the end poor Travolta had to get off the stage.
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9/10
What a Great Thrilling movie!
Lexi Kehl11 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I thought this was an excellent movie! It is of course excellent because it has two fantastic actors in it: John Travolta and Dustin Hoffman. They are spectacular actors and whoever decide to put them in the same movie is a pure genius!! When i was reading about it i didn't think it would be my type of movie (even though John Travolta is my favorite actor!) but when i did watch it i thought it was great! Although i was very sad at the end when Sam commits suicide, his poor wife and family but that shows what a splendid actor John Travolta is,he really makes you feel sorry for him even when its not real. Dustin Hoffman is a wonderful actor as well and i really think this movie should get some sort of award because it was outstanding!!

My hat goes off to John Travolta, Dustin Hoffman and The director!!
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10/10
Biting indictment of the media industry
Rommel Miller19 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Albeit something of a spoiler, this film ends somewhat like "Soylent Green" in which the protagonist screams "Soylent Green is people!" to awaken and reveal a relevant truth; and so too does the character of Max Bracket, portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in an awesomely tragic and long crane shot declare: "WE KILLED HIM, WE KILLED SAM!" as a throng and horde of media and on-lookers engulf him. This film is a biting indictment of the media circus that we look upon as Network and Cable news, and it shows how one story, the story of a simple yet complex man can be manipulated to fit the needs of those manipulating the supposedly objective nature of the news. "Mad City" shows that there is no such thing as objective reporting, or even loyalty amongst reporters, and that integrity rests with the subjective individualists such as Max Bracket who seem to have the bottom line of a scoop in their best interest, but whose humanness and ethicality cause them to care and empathize with their subjects. "Mad City" therefore, should be compulsory viewing for all Mass Comm majors for it shows how egos can overpower what should be the real impetus behind the news: the pursuit of the truth, and not sensationalism.
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7/10
Surprising!
tricksixxx17 January 2006
I was surprised how many bad reviews this movie received. Travolta and Hoffman's on-screen chemistry was undeniable. It was pretty fast paced and kept me interested and seeing what was going to happen next as the situation escalated. Then ending lines in the movie were very powerful and meaningful in a broad spectrum. This is a clever film and is clearly underrated by the average moviegoer. There is some high powered themes and some good suspense playing out in this film. The drama never beats around the bush and it's message stays clear from start to it's powerful finish. The plot knows exactly what it is meant to be, and the acting is precise and very well done. Though some aspects of the movie were a little hard to fathom, I believe you can suspend disbelief if the movie is just good at entertaining. I kept my eyes on the screen the whole time, and definitely related to Travolta's blue collar maniac. I recommend this move to most people that want to have a good time. 7/10
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8/10
I liked the entire concept of the movie
Methodless_Man25 November 2005
We all know the media likes to sensationalize stories, sometimes give a specific story more attention that it deserves just because everybody else is. Most of us have just learned to accept it. This movie creates a good example of that happening, and really goes in-depth to show the audience how the media salivates over a story that has been sensationalized. In that sense it is a true satire. Keeping that in mind, the movie is pretty good for a few chuckles. It's certainly a funny movie, but it's not something you can expect huge laughs from.

On that note though, it does make you wonder if the events portrayed are really the way things usually go down. The irony is that there are a few big names in the movie who probably get harassed by the same media, possibly in a very similar way. This movie probably could have done better in theatres, but the media didn't pick up the story at the time.
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9/10
The best movie I've seen in years
Arpi_K13 July 2003
Although I've wanted to see this movie since the day it came out, somehow I managed to see it only two days ago, and boy did I regret not seeing it before. Both John Travolta & Dustin Hoffman gave a great performance. Both characters had true depth. The story itself is quite realistic (especially now more than in 97), and can happen to any one of us. A guy is fired from work and is fed up with everything so he goes to talk to his boss. Things get ugly, he manages to take some hostages & gets himself in an even bigger rut. Being unlike most Hollywood cliches with its sad ending it certainly stands out. I'd give it 9/10
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8/10
Underatted
EXodus25X11 September 2008
Underrated, that is for sure. I was shocked at the low ratting of this film on IMDb and also that no one had said, "hey you have to see this movie". I think John Travolta gives one of his best performances and Dustin Hoffman is amazing as always and also a great supporting cast. Sure this film does not have the intensity of other films with it's same basic concepts but that is what makes it unique. I find it interesting that most movie critic reviews of this film are not very good, it makes me wonder if that has something to do with it's content. The film focuses on the media and the harm it is capable of causing by at times stirring the pot or reporting then news the way they want it be seen. So movie critics who are part of the media, for the most part hate this film, hmmm? Anyway a great film with great performances that deserved way more attention and praise then it has received.
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10/10
Superb.
Icewall9 March 2002
I'll make this brief, because most I could say have been said. I love it when Hollywood produce something that does not fit within their usual five step plot line. A movie that is not entirely coorperately produced. This is one of those cases. The movie never gets stupid, and the plot moves along nicely, and sensibly, without getting boring.

It does not go on my top5 list, but I have 0 complaints; and I can't say that about many films.
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6/10
Let down by its obvious script
paul2001sw-125 November 2016
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.
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3/10
This is bad
Nihilon27 September 1998
I don't know if this was meant to be a comedy, but it sure had me laughing a lot. First there's Travolta's performance. He played his character way too dumb. I bet he wishes he could take this one back. There are the idiotic lines of dialogue sprinkled throughout the film. For example, when Travolta's wife is watching the reporters outside her own house right after finding out about her husband holding hostages, she says, "Look, now they're standing in my flower bed! That's it!" She's more upset about her flowers than about her husband holding hostages. And when Travolta is giving his first TV interview and says something about going to church, one of the kids he's holding hostages say, "I go to church too, with my family." What's the point of that, except to hit us over the heads with how Travolta is an 'ordinary guy' and is getting people's sympathy through the interview. The worst thing of all however is how utterly stupid the story is. First, the kids who are being held hostage over several days act more like their at summer camp then being kidnapped by a gun-wielding nut. They laugh and play with Travolta, they listen to him tell stories, and when he once in a while goes nuts and starts firing his gun out the window, they forget all about it when he opens up the candy machine for them. Real kids in a situation like this would be terrified. Then there are the people outside who start calling him a hero and printing up T-shirts with his face on it after his interview. Sympathy is one thing, that's understandable, but is anyone actually going to call a guy holding kids hostage a hero? And then there's the media. Everytime someone walks out the front door of the museum, whether its Hoffman or one of the kids, they get rushed by this media mob. The police would've barricaded the place, and the reporter's wouldn't be able to get within a hundred yards of that door. This movie is bad, some of it laughably bad, but mostly just plain bad.
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2/10
An unoriginal, uninspiring film that fails to showcase the talents of both John Travolta and Dustin Hoffman
miranda-46 December 1998
Mad City is an absolute wreck. Betting on the proven track record of Dustin Hoffman and the hot revitalization of John Travolta's career, the script fails to provide any depth for either actor. There are absolutely no original characteristics to the film. It's a bad rendition of Dog Day Afternoon-Cadillac Man-Wag The Dog all rolled into one boring little package. Just throw a below average IQ working man and twenty innocent children into the mix, and Tom Matthews believes he can create a couple sympathetic characters the audience can relate too? Give me a break. Every filmviewer dreads this kind of movie, a complete waste of time.
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2/10
Ridiculous Premise that isn't Applicable in the U.S.
Katabasis29 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Costa-Gavras must not have spent much time in America because the depiction of American sympathies for a hostage-taker due to the media's portrayal does not gel with reality. America has one of the most vengeful criminal systems on the planet thanks to William Jefferson and W. Bush, and people reflexively support it; it's merely a reflection of the American attitude towards retribution. I didn't buy it for a minute, and it's difficult to feel any sympathy towards John Travolta's inept portrayal of an 80-IQ (and that's being generous) every-man that brings dynamite to a museum and expects to just walk away scot-free.

The 'power of media' angle here is better depicted by these movies: "Ace In The Hole" (a reporter creates the news to milk a tragedy) and Network (tapping into the everyman's id with syndicated vitriol... and that's only half the story).
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6/10
functional skewering of the news
SnoopyStyle3 November 2016
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.
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