This earnest effort at media criticism is never convincing enough to stir a viewer's outrage in the way filmmaker Costa-Gavras (Music Box) might have intended. John Travolta plays a barely educated museum guard who is laid... more » off from his job and ends up holding his former boss (Blythe Danner) and a bunch of schoolchildren hostage. Dustin Hoffman is a former television-network journalist making a grab at the limelight again by pushing and controlling press coverage of the story. What follows is by the numbers and not nearly as enlightening or enthralling as other films (such as Dog Day Afternoon or Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole) about simple events manipulated into a media circus. Despite Travolta's tragic performance and Hoffman's impassioned one, the film breaks up over efforts to blame electronic voyeurism for social chaos. The DVD release has optional full-screen and widescreen presentations, production notes, theatrical trailer, television spots, optional French soundtrack, French or Spanish subtitles, and Dolby sound. --Tom Keogh« less
L. Maggy S. (maggy) from LYON MOUNTAIN, NY Reviewed on 2/8/2014...
I found this very absorbing, well-acted and thought provoking. Dustin Hoffman was brilliant as always. John Travolta was stellar as a learning disabled man who was a very successful husband and father driven to desperation after losing his job. The director's marvelous work drawing on the actors abilities to subtly evolve into their fully developed characters made this a very compelling story.
Mad About John
Daniel McInnis | Toledo, OH United States | 02/16/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There's no denying that John Travolta's taken his fair share of knocks over the years, the least derserving of which he took upon the release of Mad City. Not only is his performance not bad, it's one of the finest of his career and hands down his best since Pulp Fiction. He plays an inept security guard on the short end of a museums down-sizing when he decides to take back his job, at gunpoint if he has to. This triggers a chain of events the has him taking hostages, children mostly, and becoming the biggest story in network news. To read this you might not expect to find Travolta's character any too sympathetic but he plays it in such a way that you can't help but feel for him and the dilemma in which he faces.Dustin Hoffman plays opposite him as Max, a reporter with an unscrupulous past for manipulating the facts to further his career. But after locking horns with the networks golden boy (Alan Alda), he finds himself stuck at a small time local news station. His path to redemption with his colleagues, and ultimately himself, comes in the form of Sam Bailey (Travolta). Sam's misguided attempt at reclaiming his job becomes a TV sensation, comparable to Columbine or the Oklahoma City bombing in it's scope. Max spearheads the frenzied coverage from inside the building as a lucky coincidence has him being taken hostage himself.With the world watching, Max tries to put a heroic spin on the story but finds himself confronted with a difficult choice. His career or Sam's life? And as Max makes his character arch, so too does the audience. The key to his self actualization is that we're taken along for the ride, following him down that dark road that is network politics.Comparisons to the 1976 classic Network were inevitable and well founded, but this is a different time and the script is updated to reflect the cynicism that has filtered into all of our lives. You can almost see Travolta yelling out at the top of his lungs, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" He doesn't, of course, and it's to the film's benefit. His quiet, subtle mannerisms are more telling than any line of dialogue or emotional outburst could ever even think of being.Ted Levine, you ought to remember him as the serial killer Jamie Gum in The Silence of the Lambs, plays a supporting role as the local sheriff trying to achieve notoriety as being the law enforcement offical who "handled" the crisis. He's perfectly cast, as is every role from the children being taken hostage right down to the "background artists."And those are just a few of the characters acclaimed director Costa Gavras (Z and Missing) dissects in the course of the drama. He centers the story as much on being a character study as a look at corporate news and how they spoon feed us their version of the truth. Deftly written, acted and directed the film's flaws are slight and it's deserving of high praise.Among my few beefs is the inclusion of a moralistic voice in the form of Robert Prosky, whose less convincing and more annoying because of his preachy tone. That's not to say his performance isn't good or the character isn't necessary to the story, just that it should've been toned down. Afterall, how many of us really believe he could make it to a producer's status without crossing that "invisable line" of ethical integrity along the way?But aside from that Mad City is a near perfect gem and one of the most underrated movies in a year that provided us with such instant classics as Boogie Nights and L.A. Confidential."
It's a mad, mad, mad world
Moonlight Graham | Chicago, Illinois United States | 02/23/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This satirical movie starts innocently enough, with Dustin Hoffman (Max Brackett) doing a "controversial" story on a local criminal. Brackett has been relegated to small-town duty after embarassing the network star, Kevin Hollander (played brilliantly by Alan Alda). Sam Baily (Travolta) has been fired after working as a guard at a museum. He lives paycheck to paycheck and has a family to support.To get his boss to listen to him, he makes the decision to take a gun with him to capture her attention...a gun and a bag full of dynamite. The movie is wonderful, not for the twists and turns, but for the performances and nuances. A number of times, Brackett could take a risk and end the situation, a situation he basically created himself out of his own greed. In the end, this movie has great commentary on how the media goes overboard in its coverage. This movie may be more relevant today than when it was made."
'Mad' About Travolta
daniel | toledo | 10/15/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Okay so John Travolta made a mistake with Battlefield Earth but does that discredit everything he's done in the past. Does that make Pulp Fiction any less intense or make his moves in Saturday Night Fever any less fluent? I'm of the opinion that an actor of John Travolta's caliber can redeem himself and during his brief comeback stint he made one of the best films of his career which went sadly overlooked. In Mad City he plays a pathetic security guard, a role so inept that you'd think it scare him off but no, he plays it to perfection. And when he takes his boss and a class of students on a field trip hostage he finds himself under the bright glare of the media's spotlight. The light's being cast by Max (Dustin Hoffman), an unethical newman whose willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to get the story. As you might expect, and we all know that it's coming, he and Sam (Travolta) hit it right off and form a friendship that penetrates the politics of television news. So it's up to Max to put a heroic spin on the story and save his newfound friend from being sent through the shredder by his cynical collegues. In particular an evil news achor (Alan Alda) intent on destroying Sam's credibility and for all intensive purposes, destroying his life. Never as a film touched on the subject of jounalism in the hands of ratings grubbing producers with such effectiveness and with Travolta as Sam we can't help but empathize with his plite. It's a great film with great actors."
Tense, and unpredictable
bryhil_04 | Ontario, Canada | 04/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was a good movie, and I don't want to ruin the ending because it should be a surprise, as I was. It's about a guy(Travolta) working on low wage, as a security guard at a church. He gets fired! So, he can't get Ms. Banks to listen to him. So, he comes in with a gun and a bag(you'll find out what's in it!) He's surprised to find a class and a teacher on tour there. A media guy(Dustin Hoffman) is in the bathroom reporting to a girl outside. He thinks Sam(Travolta) is taking hostages, but Sam's not. Sam goes to get his job back. Ms. Banks still doesn't listen to him. Sam shoots and accidentally hits his good friend, the other security guard for the church. Which gets the media even more involved. Things keep on packing up until the end, where the girl switches to the story, and Max(Hoffman) realizes the truth. Great story, startling suspense, so WATCH THIS!!!!"
bryhil_04 | 06/02/1999
(3 out of 5 stars)
"With further development of the role John Travolata portrays, MAD CITY could have been unforgettable instead of just entertaining. It appears as if maybe 15 to 30 minutes' worth of information on Travolta's hostage-taking security guard was cut. Nonetheless, the actor makes you care about his character even as he holds women and children at gunpoint, pretty impressive. But if we understood him better, the former Gabe Kaplan nemesis could have done a great job in a great film instead of just a good film. But see MAD CITY for the entertainment value and because movies such as this do not get made often enough."