Mad City, movie review, film review, entertainment

Michael A. Maynez photo

"Mad City"

The name Costa Gavras is enough to insure the quality of a motion picture. He has in the past given us electrifying, thought provoking films, like some of his finest: "Z", "The Music Box", "Missing" - always invoking the abuse of power. Here he takes inspiration from the excellent film of Billy Wilder's, "Ace In The Hole", which starred Kirk Douglas. This probably was the first bad decision. Comparison to the original idea always lurks deep in movie buffs' minds. Even changing the situation with John Travolta playing a museum guard that has been fired and only wants his job back. If this is so, why does he go for it with a gun and a bag of dynamite that could blow Mt. Rushmore? Throw in the ambitious, opportunistic Dustin Hoffman who really wants to get back to his old job in New York with the big network and winds up masterminding all of Travolta's demands as this becomes a hostage crisis. The manipulating gets excessive and becomes media manipulation, with Alan Alda, as the anchor you can trust to bring you the news, even though he was responsible for taking over Hoffman's job in the first place.

Mia Kirshner does a transitional job, of a young neophyte, doing a piece for the network of budget cuts in the local museum, to a career opportunist, when the chips are down. Blythe Danner as the Museum's director, is the epitome of efficiency. Robert Prosky has his hands full as an editor too tired and too concerned about image.

Despite performances that are sincere, the movie ultimately falls flat because of too much and overreaches its boundaries. It is best summed up by the director's comments, "The problem with today's electronic media isn't accuracy, but the immediacy. Everything goes directly from satellite to the TV screen. But you lose something extraordinary-the point of view of the messenger." It is with intense yearning that we long for Costa-Gavras to return to his center and may his next project make us all rejoice.

Mad City
Warner Bros. Pictures
Produced by: Arnold Kopelson, Anne Kopelson
Directed by: Costa Gavras
With: Dustin Hoffman, John Travolta, Alan Alda, Mia Kirshner, Ted Levine, Robert Prosky, Blythe Danner
Executive producers: Wolgang Glattes, Stephen Brown, Jonathan D. Krane
Music by: Thomas Newman
Production designed by: Catherine Hardwicke
Screenplay by: Tom Matthews
Story by: Tom Matthews, Eric Williams
Edited by: Francoise Bonnot
Director of photography: Patrick Blossier
Rated: PG-13
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Original Date Saturday 8 November 1997
Updated Saturday 8 November 1997