Magazine article Newsweek

City Hall

Magazine article Newsweek

City Hall

Article excerpt

YOU CAN'T FIGHT CITY HALL, SAYS the hoary adage. Al Pacino as New York City Mayor John Pappas is trying to make his City Hall a place you don't have to fight, a place that cares, that gets things done. He's a pragmatic and charismatic guy who long ago came to terms with the deal in idealism; he knows how to trade with the power-and-money men without whom nothing happens. It's Deputy Mayor Kevin Calhoun (John Cusack) who's the pristine idealist. After three years he still isn't hip to what's going on. Well, he loves Pappas, father-son stuff, and love paints a rainbow in th between black and white.

As Pappas says: "The scale of humanity runs from Charles Manson to Mother Teresa, and the rest of us are somewhere in between." So this is a movie about our old friend Mo--Moral Ambiguity. Mo surfaces after a street shootout kins a hero cop, a drug dealer and a 6-year-old black child. Public outrage forces attention to the municipal machinery whose interlinking cog-wheels are politicians, developers, judges and mob guys. These types constitute a savory New York deli dish: from under his yarmulke chief of staff Abe Goodman (David Paymer) spritzes Talmudic sayings. Calhoun is a good Louisiana lapsed Catholic." Frank Anselmo (Danny Aiello), the last of the clubhouse bosses, belts out not Verdi but Rodgers and Hammerstein. Pappas is a Greek whose oratory invokes Pericles as "the first and only great mayor."

Director Harold Becker ("The Onion Field," "Sea of Love") makes "City Hall" absorbing in its evocation of New York fauna and rhythms. …

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