Welcome to 90 from the ‘90s; the movie-related post in which I watch, discuss and debate a film from the 1990s – a film that I’ve NEVER SEEN. Today’s entry is…

Mad City (1997)

As usual, I know very little about this movie. All I do know is that Mad City stars Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta and is some kind of crime/drama picture.

I have no idea if this film is supposed to be good or bad, but let me tell you something – I have a bad feeling about this one.


Because around 20 years ago I worked at a video rental store, which stocked Mad City on VHS. MANY, MANY copies of Mad City on VHS. These were ex-rental tapes, known as PVCs (previously viewed copies).

No one ever bought those tapes. The stock room was filled with them.

If people didn’t buy the tapes it usually meant one of two things:

  • We bought waaaaay too many of the tapes for rental
  • The film had zero appeal to customers

In the case of Mad City, I think it was a bit of both. Either way, I’m not expecting too much from this film.

I hope I’m wrong, as Hoffman and Travolta have the potential to make or break this movie.

*Clicks the play button*

6mins – Hoffman is playing a TV reporter.

9mins 30secs – Travolta is playing a disgruntled ex-museum security guard…

9mins 55secs – …with a gun.

12mins – So, Travolta was fired from the museum (due to cut backs) and this pissed him off. He went to the museum (with a gun and dynamite) to try and get his job back.

12mins 10secs – For the less discerning readers out there, taking a weapon or explosives to a ‘job negotiation’ is never a good idea.

17mins – The whole situation has escalated. Travolta has accidentally shot a guard (his old colleague) and has taken the museum owner hostage, along with Dustin Hoffman, and a bunch of kids.

18mins – This is all a bad situation which continues to get worse.

20mins – You know, I like both Hoffman and Travolta in this movie, but boy I wish they would both stop mumbling. Speak up, guys!

31mins – I’m enjoying Mad City. This is much better than I expected.

40mins – Hoffman is manipulating the hostage situation, to make it into a much bigger story. Oh Hoffman – you’ll regret this.

51mins – This isn’t an amazing film, but it is certainly fine to watch.

55mins – Everyone is benefiting from Travolta’s situation – from the media and the museum owner, to street vendors selling T-shirts outside the museum. The story being told here is about how the common man can be exploited by those in power.

1hr 2mins – The hostage situation has escalated again.

1hr 8mins – The media are trying to humanise Travolta, but to them it’s all just more material to extend their story. The rat b@$tards!

1hr 27mins – The pressure is starting to get to Travolta.

1hr 28mins – I’ve forgotten to mention that this movie has a pretty good cast. In addition to Hoffman and Travolta, Mad City also features Alan Alda, Ted Levine and Bill Nunn.

1hr 29mins – Hoffman is starting to see the potentially disastrous outcome of this hostage situation and he wants to end it.

1hr 37mins – The media are twisting things again. This isn’t going to end well.

1hr 46mins – Travolta has let everyone go. Good.

1hr 47mins 30secs – Oh. He just set off the dynamite and killed himself. Not good.

1hr 49mins – “We killed him!”

*Clicks stop button*

A very bleak ending, but a pretty decent film. I was under the impression that this movie was going to be bad, but it wasn’t.

My only real criticism of Mad City is that the story was dragged out longer than it needed to be; but Travolta and Hoffman were reliable and this was a watchable film. Had I watched this movie back in the ’90s, I probably would have tried to convince some of the video shop customers to rent the damn thing!

Right, I’ve watched 88 movies – just two to go!

For past entries in the 90 from the ’90s series, check out: Hackers (1995)When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)The Secret Agent Club(1996)Flubber (1997)Robin Hood (1991)Jack Frost (1998)Psycho (1998), and Timecop (1994)