John Travolta is Sam, and, just like the name, he is a simple man. No more than his character in Phenomenon, John Travolta plays the average man who's just gone a little over the edge. He's not hostile, but he's confused, and a little angry. But Mad City is not a hostage story. It is a story of the fundamentals of the media, and the lengths people go to twist the truth.
While John Travolta is unbelievably believing in his role of Sam, Dustin Hoffman is the suave reporter stuck in the middle, immune to the police protests and Sam's gun waving. He never uses a different tone of voice, but the character progression is massive. He starts out being an ambitious reporter, just like the rest of them, but ends up trying to save Sam's life, as rival reporters twist the truth and the FBI plan a raid.
Another major character progression was that of Laurie (Mia Kirshner), Max's intern who is thrust into the spotlight when the hostage situation takes place. She starts out as just an assistant and ends up being a reporter, all in a few day's time, which shows that the story makes the reporter (although the theme of the movie is that the reporters make the story).
Mad City is not an extremely exciting movie, and about mid way through, it starts to lag. However, John Travolta's and Dustin Hoffman's acting keep the movie going and the story is surprisingly original. Most movies would feature police efforts to oust the hostage taker; in Mad City, the focus is the media. Mad City is a well done movie with great actors.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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