Run This Town, writer/director Ricky Tollman’s exceptional and intelligent feature-length debut, isn’t just about Rob Ford and and his public busts. It’s not just about Ford’s team of “special assistants”, or the eager journalists who want a big break and be the first to report breaking news. Run This Town is a magnetically contemplative film about the ethical decisions within these careers that jeopardize the integrity of these people.
Set preceding and during the scandal that exposed the late Toronto mayor’s illicit drug use, Run This Town follows a budding journalist, Bram (Ben Platt), as he strives to write more meaningful articles. Meanwhile, at Town Hall, younger staff members are celebrating their job security. Bram puts in his hours and pleads to his boss (Scott Speedman) for more substantial leads, while go-getter Kamal (Aladdin’s Mena Massoud, in another head-turning breakout) boasts to his peers about deflecting the press away from Ford. Ford (Damian Lewis, of Showtime’s Billions, in an uncanny valley disguise of make-up and prosthetics) is very happy with Kamal’s work, but only because the kid provides distance from the usual mayoral responsibilities and allows the mayor to engage with the good folks of Toronto. However, the socializing starts to eclipse Ford’s so-called sincerity as he breaks more personal boundaries including making inappropriate comments; one of which is targeted at female staff member Ashley (Nina Dobrev).
When a dime is dropped regarding visual evidence showing Rob Ford partaking in suspicious activity, the thread creates a web of uncertainty for these key players. Bram, without authorization, tries to crack the case, while Kamal prepares for another round of damage control that may be out of his league. Characters that are introduced to this scandal have their limits tested. The exposure weighs on their principals and, because they believe it’s a requirement of their role, they push through. But separately, they reach moments of clarity that open a different perspective. This is also reflected through the film’s clever style that transitions from slick edits to a more muted presentation.
The only character who doesn’t receive that breath of fresh air is Rob Ford. But, this point proves that in order to find new enlightenment, you must be open to reevaluating your perseverance and owning up to past mistakes in judgement.
And while it doesn’t draw direct parallels to hot button issues that are making modern headlines, the connections in Run This Town (including the reaction to victims of sexual and racial harassment) are distinct; demonstrating to audiences that while these problems are still disturbingly present, support is out there and willing to assist you towards reassuring your self-worth.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie