a critiQal film review City Hall (1996)

  • DVD

Plot: Investigating the deaths of a heroic cop, a drug dealer, and six-year old boy in a shoot-out, idealistic Deputy Mayor Kevin Calhoun (Cusack) uncovers a web of corruption and deceit in the Big Apple.

467 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 20s)

I’d heard about City Hall before seeing it available for instant viewing on NetFlix®, but it was always more about the cast rather than the movie itself. Of course, with a movie starring Al Pacino, John Cusack, Bridget Fonda and Danny Aiello, that wasn’t really a surprise, but having never heard anything positive or negative about the movie itself, I had put off watching it until now.

So, would the normally strong cast be able to come together to give viewers a movie worth seeing, or was City Hall another case of big names and no plot?

As expected, Al Pacino does a good job leading a strong cast. As mayor of New York City, he delivers impassioned speeches with aplomb, and while the crowd’s reaction may be over-the-top, it’s easy to see why he inspires confidence in his young protege, and in the people of the city.

John Cusack is also a solid fit as the Deputy Mayor. Looking up to Al Pacino’s mayor, he dotes on him hand and foot, and it’s obvious there is a bit of idol worship going on. Yet, when something doesn’t fit right, his character still has the guts to go it alone to discover the truth.

Danny Aiello, again, is another solid point for City Hall. He plays his character with an air of authority and common folk charm, yet still manages to convey just enough grease to be easily recognizable as a politician in his own right.

Bridget Fonda, on the other hand, isn’t given as much to do, and seems a bit out of her league amongst all these big players. While Cusack plays the charming wide-eyed protege well enough to fit right in, she doesn’t quite seem to know what to do with her tough gal act, and waffles back and forth between tough and soft for most of the film.

Starting out with a simple shooting, City Hall gradually involves it’s characters in a more elaborate storyline, pulling the viewer willingly along. The viewer will want to know the responsible party as much as the wide-eyed deputy mayor, and will easily follow him along his path. Of course, the viewer will probably have a better inkling of who’s involved, but not the reasoning why, and that’s worth following the film to the end all by itself.

With a mystery thriller, the filmmakers need to create personable characters (led by strong actors), and create a storyline that will hopefully have the viewer wanting to know who, if not why. While City Hall doesn’t manage to cover-up the who very well, strong performances by Al Pacino, Danny Aiello and John Cusack will keep them sticking around to find out the why.

A decent corruption thriller, City Hall, led by it’s strong cast, is definitely worth a look.

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