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City Hall

movie reviewmovie review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: City Hall

Starring: Al Pacino, John Cusack
Director: Harold Becker
Rated: R
RunTime: 111 Minutes
Release Date: February 1996
Genres: Drama, Suspense


*Also starring: Bridget Fonda, Danny Aiello, David Paymer, Martin Landau, Tony Franciosa, Richard Schiff, Lindsay Duncan, Mel Winkler



Review by Andrew Hicks
2 stars out of 4

If they really wanted a title to sum up the movie, they'd change the "C" in "City" to an "Sh." As you can guess, it wasn't quite the viewing experience I expected. Al Pacino is excellent as always, but is relegated to the background of the movie to deliver key speeches from time to time. The real star of the movie is John Cusack, with Bridget Fonda and Danny Aiello rounding out the cast. All three give good performances, but the story itself (and its poor pacing) brings the movie down.

CITY HALL tells a story of government corruption on the local level, corruption that unfolds when an off duty cop buying cocaine from a mobster's son gets in a shoot-out with the mobster's son, resulting in both their deaths and the accidental shooting death of a small child. That's the only action in the movie. The rest of the time we see Mayor Pacino giving speeches at press conferences and funerals, while Deputy Mayor Cusack plays detective in his spare time, solving the mystery of the murder.

The mystery doesn't lie in the murder itself but in the murderer--the mobster's son. A little investigative snooping by Cusack reveals that, at the mobster's son's trial, the recommended sentence was twenty to thirty years, but for some reason he got off with probation and was therefore able to cause the death of the innocent kid. Who in the New York political hierarchy pressured the judge into changing the sentence? Which official did the mobster bribe? Do we care? I certainly didn't. In fact, the best part of the movie, for me, was when I went out to the concession stand and bought a Cherry Coke and some nachos. I paid with a twenty but didn't get any change back.

I won't bore you with the details of Cusack's search or his ongoing sexual tension-fueled feud with Fonda, the lawyer representing the dead cop's wife, who hired Fonda to dispel charges that her husband was corrupt. I won't tell you about Aiello's character, the influential Brooklyn man involved in the conspiracy. And I'm sure not going to discuss the movie's message, that it's impossible to survive in politics without succumbing to compromise and corruption.

CITY HALL just wasn't my cup of Cherry Coke. It moved slowly, taking forever to reach its conclusion and, once it did, was anti-climactic. As you can probably guess, the ending involves a long speech from Pacino, who by this point in the movie seems more like the president of a high school debate club than an actual character. The story itself might have worked as a one-hour episode of "Law and Order" or a similar show, but not as a feature-length movie.

Copyright 1996 Andrew Hicks

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