Mad City Gets Warner Archive Blu-ray

Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta in Mad City. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Mad City is an unlikely candidate to get a Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray given that it was a box office disaster but here we are.

The film, which just marked its 26th anniversary, was released on Blu-ray in late October. Unfortunately, there’s not much here to offer as far as bonus content is concerned. The only extra on the disc is the original theatrical trailer. It’s a missed opportunity to feature audio commentary from either the filmmaker or cast.

Recently fired museum guard Sam Baily (John Travolta) tries getting his old job back, only he takes every person visiting the museum hostage. He fatally wounds his colleague, Cliff (Bill Nunn), when he fires his gun in a panic. For better or worse, Max Brackett (Dustin Hoffman) is also hat the museum, reporting live from the restroom until Sam catches him on the phone. He views the incident as good for his career as he has the exclusive scoop, unlike other reporters or anchors. Most interestingly, Max plays up Sam’s story as a hero and then prolongs the hostage crisis, if only to look better than network anchor Kevin Hollander (Alan Alda). All eyes stay on the network as the continue the crisis. No matter what decision Max made in the film, Sam was always going to kill himself.

Every reporter wants the big break–the one that can put them in the right place to get a promotion. Max plays things to his advantage but the hostage crisis goes on much longer than kit should. By the time Sam is speaking with Larry King, he is holding everyone hostage for three days! Meanwhile, Max is looking out for his own neck, prolonging the crisis for as long as he is able to do so.

I remember liking the film when I first saw it back in 1997. But as far as films go where a TV reporter or anchor is taken hostage, I think Money Monster is a better film. Watching both films again on consecutive nights, this one feels every minute of its nearly two-hour run time. I guess it’s just a difference between suspense thrillers in 1997 and 2016. It also speaks to the changes in journalism during the last 26 years–Ace in the Hole remains the gold standard for sensational journalism on screen. There is always going to be a sensational news story drawing eyeballs on the networks. It’s only a matter of when journalists find the next story to replace the current one.

Mad City is an example of every thing that is wrong with sensational journalism.

Bonus Feature

  • Original Theatrical Trailer

DIRECTOR: Costa-Gavras
CAST: Dustin Hoffman, John Travolta, Alan Alda, Mia Kirshner, William Atherton, Raymond J. Barry, Ted Levine, with Robert Prosky and Blythe Danner

Warner Bros. released Mad City in theaters on November 7, 1997. Grade: 2/5

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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.