City of Hope [1991]

Director John Sayles did the unthinkable and managed to sum up all the problems of urban life in one beautifully assembled jigsaw puzzle of a film. Combining characters from across all strata of one New Jersey city, he makes it clear that old-boy politics, corruption, and urban rage form an interlocking cage that seems to keep hope for the future locked away from our grasp. At heart, it's a story of fathers and sons, with sleazy contractor Tony Lo Bianco trying to reach out to son Vincent Spano, who wants none of his father's business. Add a racial incident, a mayor on the take, political activists, a black politician trying to balance what's right with what's expedient, and a gaggle of small-time crooks and you have a terrific, telling story of urban malaise, black and white, with a great cast that also includes Joe Morton, Angela Bassett, Chris Cooper, and Gina Gershon. --Marshall Fine

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