City Hall

on February 16, 1996 by Kim Williamson
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   A story of a king (Al Pacino as New York mayor John Pappas) who falls and the prince (John Cusack as his right-hand man, Kevin Calhoun) who must by tale's end find the strength to succeed him, the latest from director Harold Becker ("Sea of Love") aims high, intending an existential investigation of what today's body politic is and what it means to be a body in that politic. What holds promise of ensuring success is a group of powerhouse screenwriters, including Oscar winner Bo Goldman (who did Pacino's statue-winner, "Scent of a Woman"). Here, though, mixing such strong voices (humanist Goldman is hardly a good match for Calvinist Paul Schrader or nihilist Nicholas Pileggi) leads to babel; while all the heartfelt examining is going on, much of the key action--specifically, Calhoun's almost James Bondian sleuthing--comes across as almost ridiculous.
   Exhibitors who recall ShowEast's fabulous "City Hall" trailer are in for an extra disappointment; Pacino's riveting "Palace" speech appears here in a far less effective variant.    Starring Al Pacino, John Cusack and Bridget Fonda. Directed by Harold Becker. Written by Ken Lipper and Paul Schrader & Nicholas Pileggi and Bo Goldman. Produced by Edward R. Pressman, Ken Lipper, Charles Mulvehill and Harold Becker. A Columbia release. Drama. Rated R for language and some violence. Running time: 110 min.
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