Mixed or average reviews - based on 23 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 23
  2. Negative: 4 out of 23
Watch On
  1. But Mr. Costa-Gavras, a galvanizing filmmaker working with a splendid cast, is able to tell this story in style.
  2. Influenced by Billy Wilder's classic "Ace in the Hole," this dark comedy-drama rambles on too long and strains credibility at times.
  3. Reviewed by: Michael Sragow
    Actually, that shift in moral perspective is the freshest thing in the movie--it keeps the action absorbing even when the script keeps hammering us with lessons about the commercial exploitation of the news and TV audiences' craziness and gullibility.
  4. Director Costa-Gavras packs a whole lotta hectoring into this high-strung morality play about the broadcast media's culpability in the escalation of human drama into camera-ready Greek tragedy.
  5. Unfortunately, Mad City merely pumps up the volume on material that has already been picked clean. [07Nov1997 Pg 74]
  6. 60
    It has, at times, a loopy, edgy humor and moments of genuinely affecting pathos. But somehow the combination doesn't add up to anything.
  7. 60
    It's always at least a little disingenuous to attack the medium that's your bread and butter; this media-bashing movie tries to get around the problem by restricting its critique to television, specifically the news.
  8. Reviewed by: Jake Hamilton
    Yet in trying to be honest and non-conformist, Mad City does the most dishonest thing imaginable: it conforms to Hollywood routine.
  9. 50
    Mad City might have been more fun if it had added that extra spin--if it had attacked the audience as well as the perpetrators. As it is, it's too predictable.
  10. 50
    The absence of originality and inspiration isn't Mad City's only problem -- it also suffers from a shocking lack of subtlety.
  11. Not for a minute is Mad City anything less than entertaining. Yet it becomes frustrating nonetheless. Its ideas gradually seem to be at cross-purposes -- not complex, not tantalizingly ambiguous, but tangled and undefined.
  12. And veteran director Costa-Gavras, whose early work ("Z", "State Of Siege", "Missing") proves that he's no stranger to sociopolitical complexities, might well have been the man to make it. But not from this script -- it starts off as puerile and then regresses.
  13. 50
    The great, and given Costa-Gavras' previous m.o., inevitable irony of Mad City is that even as it condemns the media for exploiting the situation, it's busy doing the very same.
  14. Reviewed by: Emanuel Levy
    In actuality, however, what unfolds onscreen is a simplistic and obvious expose about the manipulative power of the news media that by now is so familiar that its cynical perspective is not likely to upset or provoke anyone.
  15. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    A blanket indictment like this has to be either satirically trenchant or a roundhouse punch to the gut. Tom Matthews' script takes a mushy middle ground, and the result seems less mad than just a bit addled or hacked off. [07Nov1997 Pg08.D]
  16. It's a movie of great dynamism and energy, but very little discipline. It probes issues but it never really thinks about them. It seems smart, but it's dumb.
  17. As delivered by the politically inclined international filmmaker Costa-Gavras ("Z," "The Music Box"), Mad City's oversimplification of the ethical issues is bound to annoy those with any first-hand knowledge of the news dissemination process and disappoint others who've come for the promise of a city whipped into a "mad as hell" frenzy.
  18. Reviewed by: Jack Kroll
    We've seen it all before and such familiarity kills impact.
  19. 40
    Clearly, there's the germ of a good -- potentially even great -- movie here, but it's thoroughly smothered by a pair of lazy, self-congratulatory star turns by Hoffman and Travolta.
  20. 30
    Hoffman and Travolta are both good, but this toothless satire does little to justify their performances.
  21. Mad City is an example of how enervated polemical filmmaking can become when its plot loses contact with plausibility.
  22. My question is, why has director Costa-Gavras taken it upon himself to dissect American cultural foibles when he has so clearly proven himself unequipped for the job?
  23. Mad City is for those who haven't seen enough movies about hostage situations. It's also for those who haven't seen enough ponderous movies about media exploitation, or Dustin Hoffman's ongoing reliance on muttery method acting.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 10 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. MichaelL.
    Jan 8, 2006
    This is a very well realized and provacative film about the media's involvement in glorifying crime and criminals. Yes, we've heard This is a very well realized and provacative film about the media's involvement in glorifying crime and criminals. Yes, we've heard this beef before, but rarely so articulately and balanced. The lines between good and bad, fair and unfair are masterfully blurred so the viewer is never quite sure whom to root for. I was moved, impressed, and challenged by this film, and applaud Costa Garvas, and his fine cast. Travolta is better than I've ever seen him, Hoffman is at his quirky best. Danner turns a cardboard character into a human being, and Alan Alda continues to do smarmy better than anyone! Ignore the critics--this is a first-rate film. Full Review »