Al Pacino, one of the greatest actors of our time, celebrated his 76th
birthday on Saturday, April, 25, 2015.

Pacino is mostly known for his classic crime dramas like "Godfather,"
"Scarface", and "Donnie Brasco", but I’ve decided to review a movie that
was never given the recognition it deserved.  

I’m the Ranting Usher.  Let me talk you to your seat.

Released in 1996 and directed by Harold Becker, "City Hall" is a gripping,
thriller involving an investigation of a triple-murder case that leads to an
unforeseen scandal.

When a six year old boy is unfortunately killed in a cross-fire between Eddie
Santos, an arrogant detective, and Tino Zappati, a member of an infamous
mafia family, the questions are suspicious and captivating.  What was Santos
doing without a backup?  Why did Judge Stern, played by Martin Landau,
sentence Zappati with probation for criminal possession of the fourth-
degree?  How does probation become a sentence in New York?    

"City Hall" moves at a slow pace.  Other shows and movies of this particular
genre would not ordinarily benefit from that.  Here the pacing works
because it is necessary to explore political intrigue in greater depth.

The film is also rich in character development.  Mayor Pappas (Al Pacino)
Deputy Mayor Kevin Calhoun, (John Cusack) political boss Frank Anselmo,
(Danny Aiello) and the mafia boss Paul Zappati are introduced, each with
their own unique quirks.  They all have a hand in the conspiracy in one way
or another.

The dialogue is dripping with depth and substance.  Nearly every
conversation is painted with sophisticated references and nuances.

“There’s no way a Zappati could have walked on a ten to twenty,” Tino’s
parole officer informs the deputy mayor, “unless…unless interested parties
had the judge in their pocket.  I don’t care if he’s Oliver Wendell Holmes,
somebody got to him.”

“Do you see this desk,” Mayor Pappas asks when he learns Kevin Calhoun
has been investigating the cross-fire.  “This desk belonged to Fiorella La
Guardia, who was about the best god--- mayor the city ever had.  Do you
know what La Guardia said?  Why is it whenever you can do something
good, the nice people come in and mess you up?  Kevin, be nice.  Don’t
mess me up.”

While "City Hall" maintains elements of mystery that hold your attention,
Mayor Pappas gives a speech at the boy’s funeral that resonates long after
the credits stop rolling.  It is a pinnacle performance in Pacino’s career.  It’s
nearly as good as a speech he delivers in Scent of a Woman, the film that
helped earn him an Oscar for Best Actor.      

I’ll only quote a little bit from the speech in "City Hall" because I want you to
see the speech for yourself.

“That boy was as pure and as innocent as the driven snow.  Can he not
empower me to find in myself the strength, the knowledge and the courage
to accomplish this seemingly insurmountable task of making a city livable,
just livable?”

Director Harold Becker set out to tell a crime story about the corruption that
lies beneath the surface of political power.  He does it in a way that’s so
understated that you can easily miss something.  This film is worth multiple
viewings for that reason.  There is always something different you can get
out of it.

"City Hall" is a great film with clever dialogue, skillful acting, a complex tone
and a subject matter that’s both realistic and entertaining.  I would like to
have seen this movie win some prestigious awards.

I’m the Ranting Usher.   Let me talk you to the Mayor’s office.

Do you agree with my review?  What Al Pacino movie do you think is
underrated?
Click the link below for information
on buying or renting this DVD from
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