John Cusack in City Hall (1996)

Pacino's City Holler

When a small child gets killed by a stray bullet during a shootout between a cop and the son of a mobster it is little surprise that it becomes big news. It also becomes a big deal for Kevin Calhoun (John Cusack), the deputy to mayor John Pappas (Al Pacino), who as his right hand man deals with issues and feeds him information when he needs it. As Kevin looks into the case with the aid of Marybeth Cogan (Bridget Fonda) who is representing the widow of the dead cop they uncover some dodgy dealings from a respected judge having let the mobster's son go on probation a little while earlier to a connection between the mobster's father, Brooklyn Politician Frank Anselmo (Danny Aiello) and Mayor Pappas which leads to Calhoun questioning what he should do with what he learns.

Someone once said to me that Al Pacino gets better with age, something which I disagreed with having been a fan of Pacino's earlier performances than those in the 90s. Curious I asked what was better about older Al Pacino and the response made me laugh as they said he dominates the scenes he is in especially like in "City Hall" when he delivers a speech and gives it his all, turning up the volume and the emotion. Basically scenes where he shouts and over acts which isn't good acting just attention grabbing stuff which in many ways is what I dislike about modern Pacino performances, the reliance on bellowing out dialogue rather than finding a more real way of delivering the emotion.

Danny Aiello and Al Pacino in City Hall (1996)

That is just one of the issues which you get with "City Hall" but there are others and one of those is a storyline which features subplots but subplots which seem to get too much attention. What it means there are periods of time when you wonder what the focus of the movie really is. Now that may come from "City Hall" being the product of four writers, it may just be a case that director Harold Becker found each story and subplot so compelling that he couldn't hold back from keeping the detail. But the strong plots end up clashing too much.

The thing about "City Hall" is that it has a cast full of big actors, well known faces and the appeal of John Cusack as the assistant to Al Pacino and Danny Aiello playing a manipulative Brooklyn politician is entertaining. Even when some of them over act it is still entertaining and so you keep on watching because Cusack has that nice guy aspect to him and you want to see him come out good by the time the credits roll.

What this all boils down to is that "City Hall" is middle of the road entertaining because it is a nicely put together movie with a nice cast. But when you look beyond the cast there are issues from competing subplots to over acting which end up spoiling things.