City of Hope (1991)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Urban Drama, Social Problem Film  |   Release Date - Oct 11, 1991 (USA)  |   Run Time - 130 min.  |   Countries - Poland, United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Brendon Hanley

In City of Hope, John Sayles thrusts the audience right into a drama playing out in their own backyard. And what a crowded backyard it is. The mythical city in turmoil is populated with more than a banana bunch of characters. Like Robert Altman, the main American purveyor of ensemble filming, Sayles manages to keep his balls in the air with remarkable acumen. He switches conversations and viewpoints so often that it's remarkable that a story finds its way through, unlike Richard Linklater's gimmicky Slacker from the same year. The film sometimes strays a little too close to a soap opera for a writer of Sayles's ability, but the quality cast keeps everything human and all of the players individualized. Joe Morton and David Strathairn, two of Sayles's regulars and two of America's most underrated actors, stand out, as does Vincent Spano. The scenes between Spano and Tony Lo Bianco (his father) and Barbara Williams his love interest) are worth the price of admission. Sayles, a true American auteur, once again writes, directs, edits, and has a role in the film.