City of Hope

This gritty inner-city film by John Sayles follows various people living in a troubled New Jersey setting, most notably Nick Rinaldi (Vincent Spano), a disillusioned contractor who has been helped along his whole life by his wealthy father (Tony Lo Bianco). Other characters in this ensemble drama about urban conflict and corruption include Asteroid , an unstable homeless person, and Wynn (Joe Morton), an idealistic young politician.


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  • ★★★★½ review by Rob Gonsalves on Letterboxd

    A gritty near-epic with almost novelistic detail, politically smart without being politically correct, this is one of John Sayles’ best. Sayles juggles a boatload of plots, not always following through on them (a tentative romantic subplot goes nowhere), but this is still an outstanding piece of storytelling. The film tracks the events during a few days in a fictional New Jersey city sunk to its knees in self-serving corruption and racial tension. Each of the many characters is connected in some way. There’s Nick (Vincent Spano), a twentyish guy who resents his building-contractor father (Tony Lo Bianco) for greasing the wheels for him; Wynn (Joe Morton), a city councilman who has to deal with political pressure from everywhere after two black kids beat up a white jogger; Angela (Barbara Williams), a young divorced mother who entertains feelings for Nick; and Carl the fixer (Sayles himself), who performs shady favors for Nick’s father. Those would be the four major roles, enough for four good movies, and there are 32 other characters knocking around, each making an impact. The performances are on-target without exception, the dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the film has scope and ambition rarely seen in American movies now. A rich, meaty film, not to be missed.

  • ★★★★★ review by Waldo on Letterboxd

    I hooked up a vcr. I'm watching old VHS tapes and this one I won't, I refuse to throw away. It's a big, sprawling story about a city exploding with racial tension, violence and a society slowly drowning in corruption. Sayles' script is flawless in my opinion. Very funny at times too. Great acting ensemble and one of the most tragic endings I've ever seen. I can't stop not watching this flick.

  • ★★★★ review by Timothy Evans on Letterboxd

    One-off collaboration between John Sayles and DP Robert Richardson (just beginning his God Tier visual dominance of the decade) is epic in every aspect.

    A sprawling, 135-minute panoramic meditation on urban politics that's brainily clued up on education, housing, poverty, racism, homophobia, crime, graft, patronage and the divided loyalties of family and ethnicity in a city divided on every imaginable issue.

    In this Darwinian cityscape, there are moral casualties every day, the price paid for fear when you can't get respect accruing consequential resonance that reverberates across the tribes of the Irish, Italian, Jewish and Black communities.

    Within the Dickensian cast of nuanced social types, there are no secondary characters. Everybody makes an impression, even when the roles are not fully individuated.

    Not sure I've ever seen Sayles flex with the (seemingly) big budget confidence of Oliver Stone or Martin Scorcese during this period, and Richardson, whose collaborated with all three filmmakers, is surely a big part of the reason why.

  • ★★★★ review by Zach a.m. on Letterboxd

    Short Cuts but for the inner city. If The Wire were a movie, it'd look something like this.

  • ★★★★½ review by Walter Biggins on Letterboxd

    A sprawling, angry portrait of a northern (unnamed) city. In some ways, this is The Wire before The Wire, in that it presents many, many sides of a city (some law, some criminal, some political, some mixing the three) with so many well-rounded characters that you'd think it would be hard to keep track. But in Sayles's hands, it's not.

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