SXSW 2019: Run This Town

Ben Platt as Bram Shriver in Run This Town.

Run This Town tells the story of late Toronto Mayor Rob Ford by way of city employees and an investigative journalist hoping to be the next Bob Woodward.

The film starts out with Bram Shriver (Ben Platt) getting a job with The Record.  Journalism isn’t what it once was yet it’s Bram’s dream job.  He’s a guy who would rather be breaking the big stories like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.  The reality?  Bram is writing clickbaity top ten lists after working there for a year.  Many journalists will likely empathize with Bram.  Nobody wants to be writing articles for clickbait when there are important stories out there.  Bram’s ambition shows.  After all, this is a guy who wants to be the next big reporter on the scene.

Eventually, Bram gets his hands on a story that could be the downfall of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (Damian Lewis).  Breaking this story could land Bram on the map but all the pieces have to fall into place.  Thankfully for Bram, press assistant Ashley Pollock (Nina Dobrev) is more than willing to talk.  However, top aide Kamal Arafa (Mena Massoud) is standing in the way.  Pollock has every reason to open up about Ford.  She finds herself increasingly uncomfortable working with Ford.  Here’s a man who is touching her inappropriately when he should not be doing so.

When Bram gets wind of it, he takes it to his boss, David (Scott Speedman).  The story goes up the ladder Judith (Jennifer Ehle), editor of The Record.  No matter what Bram or David think, the ball is in Judith’s court.  As is the case with most papers, it’s a matter of whether or not a story is true.

Seeing Ben Platt in the role of investigative journalist Bram Shriver is a striking change from a role in which he’s singing.  It’s a nice turn of pace from his previous roles.  As a matter of fact, I would love to see the actor taking on more dramatic roles so as opposed to see him getting typecast.

In a perfect world, Chris Farley would have been cast as Rob Ford.  He’s no longer with us so we have Damian Lewis taking on the job.  Unfortunately, Lewis isn’t the best actor for the role.  Far from it in all honesty.  The makeup design is very distracting.  One of the worst that I’ve seen in recent years!  It’s so bad that I wanted them to move on to another scene every single time that he appears on screen.  Was Christian Bale or the Vice makeup team not available?

Run This Town had the potential to tell a really solid story about the downfall of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford but falls flat in its efforts to do so.

CAST:  Ben Platt, Mena Massoud, Nina Dobrev, Scott Speedman, with Jennifer Ehle and Damian Lewis

Run This Town holds its world premiere during the 2019 SXSW Film Festival in the Narrative Spotlight program. Grade: 2.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.