City of Hope Review

City of Hope
The crux of the story is an old apartment block which stands in the way of a major commercial development. Joe Rinaldi is the building contractor who owns the buildings pressured to torch them to permit the development to occur. His estranged son, Nick, soon becomes a pawn in the power politics of the city. Corrupt Mayor Baci and policeman O'Brien are determined to push the development, while idealistic city councilman Wynn soon finds himself torn between what he knows is right and what his bl

by Angie Errigo |
Published on
Release Date:

01 Jan 1991

Running Time:

129 minutes

Original Title:

City of Hope

Handsome Vincent Spano begins and closes a large circle of characters whose interactions in John Sayles’s densely-plotted take on American society resemble a contemporary urban La Ronde. Mick (Spano) works for his father, whose brother is right-hand man to the mayor, and so on. Up and down the socio-economic ladder in Sayles’s fictitious Eastern seaboard burg, racial and ethnic tensions, political corruption, rivalries and greed spark off each other until there is literally a conflagration. Like a set of stacked dominoes, every character has a knock-on effect in the chain of events until we gradually make the personal connections that link everyone in town from the mayor to the family of a Hispanic maid and a crazy homeless guy. As their stories intertwine, occasionally somewhat torturously, it’s hard to grab onto any particular point of view. The aimless, unhappy Mick and earnest black politician Wynn (Horton) emerge as the principals whose fates you become most interested in, but it is the smaller characters who provide some of the most memorable incidents: a pair of rock gonzoid thieves, two angry mothers abusing a pair of cops, Mad Anthony (Josh Montel), a discount appliance salesman who makes absurd TV commercials.

For quite a while there is much humour in all of this, indeed, some of the connections alone are so coincidental as to provoke laughs, but eventually Sayles builds a sense of heavy dread. Vignettes speed up: one man jogs while another raves in jail. A man enjoys a woman, unaware that he is stalked by her jealous ex-husband. Round and round and faster it goes.

This slice of life is so big it’s not entirely easy to digest. But it is well-intentioned, certainly well-made, almost always interesting and disturbing. Sayles himself puts in an appearance as Carl, a bent garage owner who does dirty work for higher-ups
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