Mad City (1997) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Mad City has a great premise. And for the film’s first 30 minutes it’s gripping. Unfortunately, it’s one of those movies that gets progressively preposterous as it builds towards a climax that is both unsuccessful and didactic. Mad City marks the first collaboration between Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta. And the two actors are guided by well-respected filmmaker Costa-Gavras. So why doesn’t Mad City work?

A misguided museum guard (John Travolta) loses his job and decides to get it back at gunpoint. This act of defiance throws him into the fierce world of competitive ratings-driven TV. He becomes the primetime lead on all channels when it is discovered that one of his hostages is a disgraced news anchor (Dustin Hoffman).

As the movie progresses the characters, particularly Travolta’s, start to behave in an increasingly preposterous manner. The villain of the piece, Alan Alda, isn’t strong enough to give the story any increasing interest. Mad City might have been more successful as a broadway theater play. As a film, it feels unconvincing and preordained. And the script doesn’t contain a single revelatory moment or surprise. This is a forgettable movie from a trio of remarkably talented people.

Director: Costa-Gavras
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, John Travolta, Alan Alda

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