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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Retro Review: Mad City (1997)

Mad City
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, John Travolta, Alan Alda, Robert Prosky, Mia Kirshner
Genre: Thriller
U.S Box Office Gross: over $10 million

Plot: A disgruntled security guard holds a school trip group hostage, while a news reporter forms a bond with him

'Bad City'

Mad City is a strange offering coming from Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta: for one, it is not very memorable for various reasons, the direction of the film is borderline stale and too pedestrian & the film, as a whole, is weak that it is not surprising that it didn't do well at the box office. What I did like was that Travolta's character wasn't a complete and total evil loon. 

Sam Bailey is a former security guard who had just lost his job, which he wants back. He accidentally kills a security guard and with that, he feels terribly guilty about what he has done & feels his life is completely ruined. Max Brackett is a news reporter, who is covering the situation and tries to make him see the error of his ways.  

Compared to the half-hearted, less than stellar Jodie Foster effort & so-called hokum in 2016's Money Monster - with a dare I say it - completely miscast George Clooney and Julia Roberts, Mad City's star billing of John Travolta and Dustin Hoffman fare a tad better. And that, in itself, isn't really saying much as Mad City still underwhelms and Hoffman and Travolta have given better performances, elsewhere; plus, it is hardly a high point in their illustrious careers. Travolta's bad guy routine is bumbling, error-prone and can be sympathetic in places, but his performance here is way below par from what it was in Pulp Fiction and Saturday Night Fever. Hoffman's reporter turn is, amicable, but hardly sets the film on fire and is two or three steps below that of Tootsie, Marathon Man, Midnight Cowboy and many of his earlier films. It's natural and Dustin plays it in typical Dustin fashion, which may annoy some, but I am fine with it. Whilst Max is supposed to come across as the voice of reason, Hoffman's efforts are further drowned out by a mind-numbingly bland story. There is also an odd cameo by director John Landis as a doctor along with Alan Alda as Max's rival. 

The story stumbles, moves slowly & eventually loses steam after a promising opening 10 mins and after that, it drones on and it descends into self-righteous blandness and with scenes & droning conversations that went right over my head. The other problems with Mad City are it is far too broad, it needed to be a tad shorter in length and that it relies too much on over dramatics, whilst lacking in thrills. The suspense aspect this film has been alluding to fails to come to prominence, which is a big shame as this would have further propelled the movie. 

Final Verdict:

A film that rarely did wonders for Hoffman and Travolta's illustrious careers, Mad City is throwaway as a film as it comes. But if there is one consolation, it is that unlike Money Monster, it doesn't resort to cheap thrills and manipulating the audience through emotion, whilst it comes across as overproduced. 

As far as Mad City goes, as watchable as it was in few places, it remains as nothing more than an earnest effort that is hardly shocking or thrilling enough to stir up emotions or evoke tension, which this film very much needed. Both Hoffman and Travolta would and could only carry this film as far as it could go; therefore, it's a pity that with more twists & excitement, this would have further aided their efforts. 

Mad City is hardly mad and tenacious, it's, in fact, a glaringly missed opportunity to make something grand out of a simple premise. & that's no thanks to director Costas- Gavras.



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