Review by Sean Boelman
Written and directed by Ricky Tollman, Run This Town is an ambitious new political thriller aiming to tell a true story from a unique perspective. A bit rough around the edges but ultimately very entertaining, this film’s flaws mean that it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but viewers likely haven’t seen anything like it.
The movie tells the story of the 2013 political scandal involving Toronto Mayor Rob Ford through the eyes of the young journalist who is first to the scoop and a political aide and close confidant to Ford. Even if one is unfamiliar with the true story or even the people at the core of the film, there’s something very intriguing about hearing this story not from the view of the victim or the perpetrator, but third parties who are involved in the story.
However, herein lies one of the movie’s greatest flaws. By trying to balance the two leads, the film isn’t able to go into as much depth as it likely should have. Some excellent dialogue allows Tollman to still deliver some sharp and biting political commentary, but one can’t help but feel like this movie, particularly in relation to the storyline about the mayor’s assistant, is a case of wasted opportunity.
To top it off, there is an additional subplot involving another one of Mayor Ford’s aides who is assaulted by Ford at the party. This portion of the film feels like an afterthought, which is particularly unfortunate given the timeliness of the subject. Tollman takes what easily could have been the most emotionally affecting aspects of the movie and relegates it to the back burner.
Where the film is most successful is in its exploration of the corruption in the political system. By showing the tremendous influence that an assistant had over Ford’s political career, the movie depicts the overwhelming incompetence of those in power. While more could have been said about the conditions that led to Ford getting put in office in the first place, there’s still some interesting stuff here.
The film also features some really solid performances. Ben Platt and Mena Massoud are both wonderful as the movie’s two leads. It’s not often that a film is able to pull off having two strong lead performances without one of them feeling overshadowed, but since they exist separately, the movie works very well.
One of the more off-putting things about the film, though, is Damian Lewis’s performance as Mayor Rob Ford. Under heavy prosthetics, Lewis gives a performance that is so over-the-top that it feels outright comedic at times. This is very off-putting in a movie that otherwise comes across as completely serious and straight-faced.
Run This Town has some excellent moments, but comes to mixed results as a whole. This certainly isn’t an average political thriller, though the more ambitious aspects of the film’s production don’t always pay off as they should.
Run This Town is now available on VOD.