Sam Baily (Travolta) grew up in Madeline. After high school he joined the Air Force so he could fly planes, but his lack of education made that dream unreachable. Sam returned home, married and got a job as security guard at the local Museum of Natural History. He had two children, played softball and lived an uneventful, if modest, life. Until he lost his job.
Sam's boss, Mrs. Banks (BLYTHE DANNER), has to cut her budget at the museum, and Sam's job is what she cuts. Not only does she refuse to reconsider, she won't even discuss things with Sam. He's too terrified to even tell his wife &endash; in fact, Sam is almost too desperate to think. All he knows is that he has to get his job back.
Max and Sam &endash; one has seen the world and one can't even imagine it. One makes a living on television and one is naively hypnotized by its appeal. One is free of any personal entanglements and one is propelled by the love of his family.
They appear to be opposites, but Max and Sam, under the surface, are more alike than they want to admit. They've lost their places in the world, and no one seems to care. They've done their best and it isn't enough.
As Max and his idealistic young assistant Laurie (MIA KIRSHNER) visit the Museum of Natural History to interview Mrs. Banks, Sam shows up to beg for his old job. Sam tries without success to get Mrs. Banks to listen to him. Then, suddenly, he pulls a gun. A tragedy seems imminent.
But Max, in the next room, sees it differently, and quickly gets on the phone to his newsroom. To him, it's a story &endash; and a good story is never a tragedy to a reporter. This time, if Max plays it right, it could be his ticket back to the big leagues.
Within minutes, Max is broadcasting the story of this hostage situation live, with the help of his assistant at the remote truck parked outside. Within hours, the entire nation is watching it with bated breath. Max knows that as long as he can keep them watching, his career has a chance. Sam knows that as long as he holds on to the gun, someone will listen to him.
But neither one of them knows the true power of the image they've created &endash; the drama of a decent guy who's trying to do right, shaped by a cynic whose heart is actually in the right place. Although Max started out trying to manipulate that image from inside the museum, neither man realizes how thoroughly it can be distorted by forces outside.
Max and Sam come to know each other &endash; to recognize what they share and to wish for a happy ending to their story. But now the network has arrived &endash; and it, too, has a story to tell. It's the one that will sell on the evening news. Right or wrong, once their version airs, it's what everyone will believe.
The two men on the inside, cut off from the world, knowing the truth, the lies and all the shades of grey in between, can only wait.
COSTA-GAVRAS includes among his directing credits the Academy Award-winning "Z," "Missing" (for which Gavras received an Oscar for Best Screenplay) and the critically accalimed "Music Box." Oscar-winning producer ARNOLD KOPELSON and his partner, ANNE KOPELSON, whose recent joint credits include "The Devil's Advocate," "Eraser," "Seven" and the Oscar-nominated "The Fugitive," are producing. The screenplay is by TOM MATTHEWS from a story by Matthews & ERIC WILLIAMS. The executive producers are WOLFGANG GLATTES ("Larger Than Life"), STEPHEN BROWN ("The Devil's Advocate") and JONATHAN KRANE ("Phenomenon"). "Mad City" is being distributed worldwide by Warner Bros.
Also starring in "Mad City" are Alan Alda as Kevin Hollander, the powerful and popular network anchorman; Mia Kirshner as an impressionable young intern working with Brackett; TED LEVINE as Alvin Lemke, a gruff local police sheriff; ROBERT PROSKY as Lou, head of television news at Max's small station; and Blythe Danner as Mrs. Banks, the museum curator.
The behind-the-scenes crew is headed by an internationally
renowned creative team. Cinematographer PATRICK BLOSSIER previously
worked with Costa-Gavras on such acclaimed films as "Music Box" and
"Betrayed." Editor FRANCOISE BONNOT won an Academy Award for her work
on Costa-Gavras' "Z." Production designer CATHERINE HARDWICKE lent
her talents to the uniquely visual features "Tank Girl" and
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