Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mad City. C+

Mad City is a great title, isn't it? I only wish the movie itself could have been as good. I saw it having no knowledge of the movie, when it was made, the story it tells, the reception it received...It was a complete mystery and I hoped I would end up loving it. It has a clever opening in which a TV crew sets up outside a bank. The scene is set up like a bank heist and was very well done. Then it introduces a reporter named Max, played by Dustin Hoffman. He's having trouble finding a good story, so he goes to a museum to investigate its financial troubles. There he encounters Sam Bailey (John Travolta), a troubled museum guard who brings a gun into the museum and takes everyone in it hostage. We soon learn that Bailey's not all that dangerous, but just an average family man. He doesn't want money or attention. He brings the gun in to scare his boss and in the process accidentally shoots another guard. Now Bailey just wants to go home, but he can't because it's a media circus outside and there's cops everywhere. Unless he can strike some sort of deal, he'll go to jail. Max becomes sort of a mercenary, working on both sides to try and make the situation work. Another major character is a TV rival, played by Alan Alda. Mad City obviously isn't just about the hostage situation, but about the event as a whole. How the public sees it, how the police see it, how the media sees it, and how Bailey himself sees it. The media played a large role in the movie as they swarm the outside of the museum, begging for answers. The film did a good job of depicting how they manipulate stories and use propaganda to make a point. Alda's character was a perfect example of that. Yet in the end I had a difficult time believing the entire thing. The crisis goes national and Bailey makes several TV addresses as well as an interview with...Larry King?. Outside the museum it looks like a carnival is taking place as a cause of the situation. There's even T-shirts that are made in support of Sam. The whole thing seemed slightly outrageous. It would have been great if this was a true story, like Dog Day Afternoon, but instead it's fiction trying to be non-fiction. But it's still entertaining and Alda and Hoffman both give good performances. Plus, the story is still interesting and at least makes an attempt to be provocative.

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