Mad City is a 1997 American thriller drama film directed by Costa-Gavras, written by Tom Matthews based on a story by Matthews and Eric Williams, and starring Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta, with a supporting cast featuring Mia Kirshner, Alan Alda, Blythe Danner, Ted Levine, Raymond J. Barry and Larry King. This is Costa-Gavras's first English-language film since Music Box. The title comes from a nickname of Madison, Wisconsin, where it originally was going to be set,[4] and was used for its multiple meanings.

Mad City
Theatrical release poster
Directed byCosta-Gavras
Screenplay byTom Matthews
Story by
  • Tom Matthews
  • Eric Williams
Produced by
CinematographyPatrick Blossier
Edited byFrançoise Bonnot
Music byThomas Newman
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • November 7, 1997 (1997-11-07)
Running time
114 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$50 million[2][3]
Box office$10.5 million[2]

Plot edit

Sam Baily is a former security guard at a local museum, but has been recently laid off due to financial difficulties. In a moment of desperate rage, he returns to the museum with a shotgun and dynamite, taking Mrs. Banks, his former boss, and a group of children on a school field trip as hostages. Local television journalist Max Brackett has just finished an interview with the museum's curator discussing the museum's financial difficulties, when he stumbles on the hostage situation. He is forced to become Baily's intermediary between the outside world and the police, and is thrust into the middle of a dangerous and tense situation. As the situation unfolds, Max is forced to confront his own fears and apprehensions, while at the same time trying to protect the lives of the hostages, and diffuse the situation. It is a difficult and emotionally draining situation, but in the end Max manages to successfully broker a peaceful end to the hostage crisis.

Baily has made a terrible mistake. He has accidentally shot his friend Cliff, a security guard at the building, and sends him to the hospital. The sound of the gunshot quickly creates a media circus outside the building and Brackett, a reporter seizes the opportunity to revive his career. As Brackett reports the inside story exclusively on television, the situation inside the building is becoming more chaotic. Baily is becoming increasingly unstable as he pops caffeine pills to stay awake.

The young intern coworker, Laurie, also present in the building and together with Brackett, is able to negotiate with a national network and its star news anchorman, Kevin Hollander, with whom Brackett has an unhappy history. As the situation escalates, Baily fires the weapon again, frightening the children and making the situation even more severe.

Baily had been hoping the police would let him off and let him return home to his wife and kids, but it is clear that this is not going to happen. He refuses to accept that he will be going to jail, but the police has to do its job. Brackett, on the other hand, decides to make a deal with Hollander, rather than let Hollander have the story. Hollander publicly accuses Brackett of prolonging the crisis and endangering the children, making it clear that Brackett has made the wrong decision. Laurie betrays Brackett, proving she is willing to do whatever it takes to further her own career, even if it means sacrificing him and the children in the process. It is clear that this is not a situation in which anyone will be coming out unscathed, and that everyone has their own agenda.

At first, Baily is in denial about the death of his friend Cliff. He and Brackett let the situation escalate until the police had no choice but to give Baily a five-minute ultimatum. Baily releases the hostages, but he refuses to go to prison and face his wife. He decides to lock the museum doors on Brackett instead, who was outside begging the police to hear them out.

Baily's actions have disastrous consequences. Not only has he lost his friend Cliff, but he is now completely alone, with no way out of the situation. He has lost everything, and he is too scared to face the consequences of his actions. He is stuck in a desperate situation, with no way out.

Brackett tries everything he can to think of to convince Baily to come out of his bunker peacefully, but Baily refuses to respond to him. Unbeknownst to Brackett, Baily has already made up his mind to end his life by setting off his explosives. The massive blast shakes the ground and tosses Brackett into the parking lot, sending debris flying everywhere. As reporters quickly surround Brackett to ask him questions about Baily, all he can say in response is a heart-wrenching, "We killed him", referring to how the media had handled the situation. He has failed to save Baily, and the guilt weighs heavily on him.

Cast edit

Production edit

In April 1994, it was announced Universal had purchased a spec script titled Mad City written by Tom Matthews from a story co-authored by Matthews and Eric Williams.[5] The script eventually went into turnaround, where it ended up at Warner Bros.

Release edit

Box office edit

In the United States, Mad City opened at #6 at the box office, with an opening weekend gross of $4.6 million. It went on to gross $10.5 million, but when compared to its $50 million budget, Mad City was a box-office bomb.[2]

Critical reception edit

The film has a score of 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 30 reviews. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 45 out of 100 (mixed or average), based on 23 reviews.

Film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times noted Mad City is inspired by the film Ace in the Hole, and gave the movie two stars of four, writing, "The movie knows what it wants to do, but lacks the velocity for lift-off."[6]

At the 1997 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, Travolta was nominated for Worst Actor, but lost to Tom Arnold for McHale's Navy.[7]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "MAD CITY (15)". British Board of Film Classification. November 25, 1997. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Movie Mad City - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  3. ^ "Mad City (1997)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  4. ^ Dudek, Duane. "Before the state Capitol protests there was 'Mad City'". Journal Sentinel. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  5. ^ "Universal buys spec 'Mad City'". Variety. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  6. ^ Roger Ebert (November 7, 1997). "Reviews - Mad City". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 5, 2007.
  7. ^ "The Stinkers 1997 Ballot". Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. Archived from the original on August 18, 2000.

External links edit