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Volume 91, Issue 41

Tuesday, November 11, 1997



Media are running this Mad City

By Karena Walter
Gazette Staff

The media just isn't getting good press these days.

In a decade of Diana lovin', white Bronco chasing, Hard Copy star reporters, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood focused an entire film on the seedy side of television journalism.

The new movie Mad City, which casts Dustin Hoffman as a TV reporter looking for sensationalism first and foremost, proves to be an interesting piece of social commentary, while still a rather exciting film. This movie is a change from 1976's All the President's Men, when Hoffman played heroic Carl Bernstein, one of the two Washington Post reporters who exposed U.S. President Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal.

Mad City revolves around Max Brackett (Hoffman), a reporter who is always looking for the big story. He gets his break when Sam Bailty (John Travolta), a laid-off security guard, walks into the local museum with a gun, asking for his job back as Max watches from the men's room.

When Sam accidently shoots a former colleague, the stakes get higher and Max's story gets bigger. Add a group of touring schoolchildren to the chaos and there's a hostage situation that may even lead the six o'clock news.

The movie tries successfully to explore the power of the media, by having Max not only cover the story but become an integral part of it. Despite the fact Sam is brandishing a gun, Max is the real man in charge of the situation, manipulating Sam at all costs to ensure exclusive coverage of the events. He advises Sam on what hostages to release based on the 'race card,' what to say to police and how to gain positive public opinion.

Oblivious to the ratings grab is Sam, a man of lower intellect, who is both comical and pathetic as he tries to get his job back. Travolta plays the role convincingly, making us feel he is a bumbling harmless underdog about as threatening as the children he holds hostage.

The evil media image of the film is balanced by the ethical wise old editor, although he could be dismissed as being from a dying breed. The progression of Max's intern from a caring individual who helps the wounded security guard to a cold-hearted reporter, though, is too drastic and unbelievable, considering the story takes place over a couple of days.

The most ironic part of the movie is a cameo by CNN's Larry King. He plays himself and only helps to further blur the line between credible journalists and those who want to be stars like Max.

©Zade Rosenthal/New Line Cinema
"ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER MOVIE." John Travolta, seen here in Michael, stars in Mad City, which is his 87th movie since his Pulp Fiction comeback. The Gazette congratulates him on this milestone.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997