City of Hope | Chicago Reader

City of Hope

John Sayles's seventh feature (1991, 130 min.), his first in 'Scope, is a highly ambitious and grimly powerful look at urban corruption, representing a marked improvement over most of his earlier efforts despite his relative lack of skill in directing actors, framing, and editing. Set in the fictional Hudson City, New Jersey, which suggests a combination of Hoboken (where Sayles lives) and nearby Jersey City, the film centers on the troubled son (Vincent Spano) of a successful contractor who gets involved in an attempted burglary, which sets off a chain of events that ultimately involves politicians, policemen, hoods, teachers, street people, and assorted other characters in this densely populated film. Though it depends on an overall orientation that's about as up-to-date as leftist thinking of the 30s, the film is nonetheless highly persuasive. (The raving street person employed as a choral figure seems straight out of Clifford Odets.) With Tony Lo Bianco, Joe Morton, Angela Bassett, Gloria Foster, and Sayles himself (in a very effective turn as a villain with a perfect New Jersey accent).

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