Sunday, March 8, 2009

City Hall

I had never heard of City Hall until this weekend when I was perusing the free On-Demand movies from Comcast. Made in 1996, the plot synopsis sounded vaguely interesting: the story follows New York City's Deputy Mayor as he digs deep to discover the truth behind the death of a six-year-old boy in a shootout gone bad.

City Hall
Director: Harold Becker
Starring: John Cusack, Al Pacino

To keep this short (since I'm confident most of you have never seen it), this movie was terrible. Pacino and Cusack were mediocre at best, and the storyline was so boring and asinine that I fell asleep the first time through. I can count on one hand the amount of times that has happened to me, so that speaks volumes about the quality of the film in question. Nevertheless, I surged onward; I finished the film the next night and very nearly fell asleep again because the last hour was no better than the first.

Director Harold Becker has only made one good film in his career as far as I can tell: the 1993 Alec Baldwin-starrer Malice. That earlier film has the suspense, characters, music, and emotional drive that City Hall yearns for, but fails so miserably to achieve. The whole time I was watching, I kept thinking to myself, "I would have been furious had I paid for this in a theater." The cinematography felt like it was done by a child - there were absolutely zero interesting shots in the whole film. The most complicated shot was a small crane lift straight up, and about 98% of the rest was filmed from a tripod. This type of style can work with the right material (a la No Country For Old Men), but in this movie billed by Comcast as a "fast paced thriller," they should have done at least one thing to keep audiences interested.

Cusack plays his sniveling sidekick to Pacino's overbearing Mayor of New York, and Al gives a lacking performance that is down there with the worst of his career. There's one scene where he approaches the "Pacino level" that we all know; he gives a fiery speech at the slain child's funeral. But even this scene is so over the top that it can't be taken seriously within the context of the rest of the film.

Aside from this brief moment of quasi-acceptable movie watching, the rest of the movie plummets to depths normally reserved for direct-to-DVD garbage. For your own sanity, I would suggest staying away from this one at all costs. This is one that I truly regret watching. Until next time...

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