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The camera rarely stops moving in City Of Hope, an unflinching study of the urban dynamics of a contemporary American working class community on the verge of economic breakdown. Drawing from his regular staple of actors, John Sayles's film is a network of players from different social stratum; each with a separate agenda.
Nick (Vincent Spano), a third generation Italian-American, is desperate to escape the opportunistic politics inherited from his building contractor father (Tony Lo Bianco). Wynn (Joe Morton) is an idealistic black councillor juggling political power and personal ethics. Black teenagers Tito (Eddie Townsend) and Desmond (Jo Jo Smollet) are sick of racist cops like Rizzo (Anthony John Denison); they mug college professor Les (Bill Raymond), accusing him of child molestation. Single mother Angela (Barbara Williams) wants a break in life after divorcing Rizzo. Meanwhile, the homeless Asteroid (David Strathairn) roams the street mimicking shop front television screenings.
These are just some of the 38 interweaving characters (roles of almost equal weight) in City Of Hope. Sayles, in now familiar roles of writer, director, editor, actor and songwriter, shows from the grass-roots level how shifts of class, race, sex, family and personal loyalties define the political life in his fictional Hudson City, New Jersey.
Its elegant and expressive myriad of experience unsettles: there is little apparent unity and the stories seem like loose threads. The viewer arrives at an accumulation of knowledge, rather than a predetermined outcome of Hudson City life, and is left to dwell on the modern world's evolving notions of co-existence and compromise. • Anne Woodman