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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 99 - Mad City (1997)

Mad City was meant to be an examination of how the media manipulates stories and how reporters are bloodthirsty jerks who will stop at nothing to get the scoop. We haven’t heard that one before. Mad City is special, however, in that it has some of the silliest dialogue and one of the strangest performances of superstar John Travolta‘s career.

Early in the same year, John Travolta gave an energetic and exciting performance in the spectacular Face/Off. In Mad City, he is subdued, bored and even acts a little slow. The plot follows an everyman who is fired so, through an escalating series of events, ends up taking a museum hostage. One of the patrons at the time is a reporter (who has one of the stupidest character names I’ve ever heard in a film: Max Brackett) played by Dustin Hoffman who exploits the crisis for his own career and even eggs on the situation to make it more exciting for the news. It doesn’t take long for the nation to be captivated by the events that are unfolding and they watch non-stop until the stand-off’s less-than-exciting conclusion.

It’s no secret that Hollywood has a certain contempt for news media, part of that likely comes from their own arrogance about how the big names feel they shape popular culture more than the events in reality and also is likely rooted in their hatred for film critics, who are treated unfairly by Hollywood because just looking at the box office’s top-grossing films one can see that most audiences don’t pay the critics any attention. Still, their contempt for the media in this film is trumped only by the contempt for Americans, as household watchers are depicted as bloodthirsty and vile as they are shown to long for a violent conclusion to the events that have transpired.

Also, the performances in Mad City are bad all around, and considering the leads are Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta most of the problems with this film can be credited to the dreadful screenplay by Tom Matthews, who has no other film credits to his name. Mad City was Directed by Costa-Gavras a Greek director who has a certain flair to his films, though they aren’t always for everyone. However, Mad City is a muted, boring film to look at, lacking any flair and having a confined feel, despite its story’s supposed national reach. Still, Mad City is a victim of its banality, with characters that speak unnaturally and a tone that is patronizing of the public at large.

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