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Run This Town – Movie Review

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Run This Town – Movie Review

Rating: C (Average)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

The scandal surrounding Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was so massive, it even managed to receive worldwide attention. That’s rather unprecedented in Canadian politics, but it was an unusual story not in sync with peoples’ stereotypical view of Canada. A movie about Ford and his troubles was probably inevitable, but Run This Town takes the curious approach of focusing on the lead-up to that infamous recording rather than the aftermath. Director/writer Ricky Tollman tries to make a journalism drama, but we mostly follow a protagonist who isn’t all that interesting and the story doesn’t quite lift off.

For most of Run This Town, we follow Ben Platt’s aspiring journalist Bram as he attempts to rise up the ranks at a newspaper. There is potential there to look at how modern journalism has changed and how far some will go to catch that attention grabbing headline. However, Bram doesn’t feel fleshed out enough and it’s hard to care about him. Platt does give a good performance, but he’s not given the strongest material to work with. A lot of focus is also given to Ford’s closest assistant Kamal, played by Mena Massoud. The film tries to explore the complicity of politicians’ staff workers and Kamal does go through an interesting development. More time could have been spent on exploring this theme further.

The film doesn’t shy away from depicting Ford’s misogynistic, racist and drunken behaviour. There is a particularly uncomfortable scene where he harasses those working under him. Tollman captures the mood in the office and it’s appropriately difficult to watch. Nina Dobrev also handles the tricky task of playing an employee at the centre of his harassment and her anger and pain comes through. As for Ford himself, his depiction ends up underwhelming. Damian Lewis attempts a Canadian accent for the role and he gets buried under pounds of makeup, but it never becomes a convincing portrayal of the controversial mayor.

The makeup artists try their hardest to make Lewis look like Rob Ford, but the prosthetics are all too apparent. When he first appears on screen, it looks jarring and at no point does Lewis transform into Ford. Watching Run This Town makes one a little sadder that Chris Farley died so young, because he would have been a perfect candidate to play Rob Ford. Meanwhile, the editing tries to appear flashy as it jumps between locations like Toronto City Hall and the newspaper office. It instead ends up as a major distraction along with other odd scene transitions. Unfortunately, just when the film is about to get into some potentially engrossing material and the most fascinating part of the Rob Ford story, it stops.

Run This Town seeks to explore some themes worth diving into like the relationship between journalists and the politicians they cover, along with the inappropriate behaviour that can happen in the hallways of government buildings. However, we only really get glimpses of those ideas and the film doesn’t dive that deeply into how Rob Ford’s actions affected an entire city and how he governed himself. By focusing on a generic lead character, Run This Town ends up a mixed bag that doesn’t sink its teeth as well as it would like. Rob Ford seemed too unreal and yet his depiction here falls even more into caricature.

Stefan Ellison

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