Mad City

An orgy of shallow media-bashing, masquerading as a balanced look at the ways the press -- particularly TV news journalists -- shape the perceptions of a gullible public. Veteran TV newsman Max Brackett (Dustin Hoffman) has fallen from the heights of Manhattan broadcasting to the backwater of the network's Madeline, CA, affiliate, all because he didn't...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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An orgy of shallow media-bashing, masquerading as a balanced look at the ways the press -- particularly TV news journalists -- shape the perceptions of a gullible public. Veteran TV newsman Max Brackett (Dustin Hoffman) has fallen from the heights

of Manhattan broadcasting to the backwater of the network's Madeline, CA, affiliate, all because he didn't have the stomach for the kind of grossly sensationalistic coverage that keeps ratings high. When fortune drops Brackett in the middle of a pathetic muddle of a hostage drama at a local

museum, he recognizes his ticket back to the big time. Brackett takes it upon himself to advise and manipulate inadvertent hostage-taker Sam Baily (John Travolta), a none-too-bright former museum guard desperate to get his job back, and almost single-handedly turns the situation into a three-ring

media circus that can only end badly. Clearly, there's the germ of a good -- potentially even great -- movie here, but it's thoroughly smothered by a pair of lazy, self-congratulatory star turns by Hoffman and Travolta. Whether the fault lies with the script or with Hoffman, the movie wants to

have Brackett both ways -- a cynical manipulator with his eyes on the numbers (take a look at Kirk Douglas's disgraced, cynical and desperately ambitious newspaperman in Billy Wilder's ACE IN THE HOLE for a glimpse of that Brackett) and a disillusioned idealist whose alienated exterior

conceals a heart that's firmly in the right place -- and that just doesn't wash. As to John Travolta's bewildered working joe, there's something really distasteful about a cosseted, wealthy-beyond-imagining movie star playing a downsized loser as a half-wit. The story is clearly meant to be

complex and thought-provoking -- as director Costa-Gavras's films once were -- but it's actually smug and exploitative. Why... just like network news.

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  • Released: 1997
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: An orgy of shallow media-bashing, masquerading as a balanced look at the ways the press -- particularly TV news journalists -- shape the perceptions of a gullible public. Veteran TV newsman Max Brackett (Dustin Hoffman) has fallen from the heights of Manh… (more)

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