Mad City (1997) starring John Travolta, Dustin Hoffman, Mia Kirshner, Alan Alda, Robert Prosky, Blythe Danner, William Atherton directed by Costa-Gavras Movie Review

Mad City (1997)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Dustin Hoffman in Mad City (1997)

Slight at the Museum

After being laid off from his job as a security guard at the Museum of Natural History Sam (John Travolta) has been unable to find work so returns to see Mrs. Banks (Blythe Danner), his former boss, to beg for his job back. When she says no Sam pulls a gun and accidentaly injures his former colleague and best friend Cliff (Bill Nunn) in the ensuing chaos. Panicking he decides to lock the museum's doors and take everyone hostage including a class of kids who are there on a school trip. What Sam doesn't realise is that in the bathroom is Max Brackett (Dustin Hoffman) a journalist wo likes to push the boundaries of journalistic ethics and starts reporting on what is going on from inside the building. But with Sam not really knowing what he is doing Max takes advantage of the situation to prompt Sam on what he should do to make the story even better until things get out of hands.

Okay "Mad City" is such a typical 90s movie the sort where Hollywood has taken an interesting premise but turned it into a wholely accpetable form of entertainment for the cinema going public who will pay to see certain star do certain things in an unchallenging way. As such whilst "Mad City" has a storyline which should be all about the ethics of journalism and TV reporting what it ends up about is Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta for the first half and then a cliche ending for the second half.

John Travolta in Mad City (1997)

Now the thing is that "Mad City" is entertaining in a mainstream way, watching Travolta playing a dumb hick with a shot gun end up in way over his head is just the right amount of comical without being full on comedy. The same with Dustin Hoffman as the reporter who has no boundaries when it comes to interefering with a story to make it better. I could go on as the likes of Alan Alda and William Atherton deliver the same sort of entertaining mainstream performance which you would see in every movie during the 90s. And to make it clearer every single character is on the false side of being believable but entertaining for being so.

But then you have the storyline itself and I had better say spoiler alert now. So we have this story of Max manipulating the hostage situation and manipulating Sam to make the story bigger than it is rather than bringing it to a speedy conclusion. But again it is all played on the false side of realism, played for entertainment rather than accuracy and so it is often over the top. But it is also obvious as we watch Max manipulate the situation until it gets out of control and in a moment of guilt realises it is his and the medias fault for how things have got. It is a corny crowd pleaser of a way out when instead "Mad City" could have been truly courageous and gone out on a limb by being different.

What this all boils down to is that "Mad City" is entertaining, it has an entertaining story and entertaining performances but it is all typical of the 90s and rather reaching for originality it goes cliche and mainstream which makes it forgettable.