Costa-Gavras obviously has a big problem with the tabloidism of broadcast journalism. But the issue has long lost its immediacy. Not to mention that Network, Broadcast News and, to some degree, Up Close and Personal have already tackled the issue. Though it's no Network, Mad City succeeds because of Costa-Gavras's sense of urgency and the all-out performances of Travolta and Hoffman. Recently let go from his position as a security guard at the Museum of Natural History, slightly slow Sam Baily (Travolta) confronts his boss (Danner) with a loaded gun, hoping to scare her into reinstating his job. When she refuses, Sam takes a group of school children hostage. Local news anchor Max Brackett (Hoffman) (formerly a network investigative reporter), who's covering another story at the museum, latches on to the story and creates a media event, eyeing a network position. Costa-Gavras's jabs at blown-dried network anchors is acidly funny, exemplified by Alda's network reporter imported to cover the crisis.
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