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Mad City

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Mad City

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As could probably be guessed from its television ads, Mad City is a film about the way television manipulates reality, specifically television news. Dustin Hoffman plays a former network reporter serving time in exile at a small California station after embarrassing network anchor Alan Alda on live television a few years back. When slow-witted, laid-off security guard John Travolta takes a natural-history museum (along with a group of schoolchildren and Hoffman) hostage, the reporter realizes he may be on to the story of his life. Hoffman and Travolta are both good, but this toothless satire does little to justify their performances. There's nothing here that wasn't already covered by Network and Broadcast News, and bungled by a more recent spate of isn't-the-media's-manipulation-of-events-a-shame? movies like Natural Born Killers. (Meanwhile, look for cameos by media whores Jay Leno and Larry King.) By the time Mad City gets to its unearned Day Of The Locust-style apocalyptic ending, its hollowness is apparent despite a distracting veneer of competence spread throughout. Please disperse; there is nothing to see here.