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“Run This Town” Manages To Make Rob Ford Boring

Rob Ford was always going to have his story come to the big screen one day. It’s just too juicy and larger than life. Somehow, the story of how Ford, the Mayor of Toronto, was finally caught up in a scandal that stuck, is brought to dull life in Run This Town. Instead of a riveting journalism procedural or an over the top political drama, we get things somewhere in between. The film thinks that it’s smarter than it is, more interesting than it is, and more important than it is. It all adds up to a major disappointment, especially if you saw the potential in this story.

The movie is a drama about how the 2011 Rob Ford scandal came to be international news. At the beginning, we meet two of Ford’s top aides in Ashley (Nina Dobrev) and Kamal (Mena Massoud), who more or less run things for the Toronto Mayor (Damian Lewis), while trying to keep him out of trouble, or at least covering up the trouble he gets into from the press. Then we encounter burgeoning newspaper reporter Bram (Ben Platt), who despite his naivety, desperately wants to be a quality journalist. For a while, he finds himself doing desk work, ranking restaurant items, instead of breaking the hard-hitting stories he desires. That is, until he accidentally finds some rather scandalous information about the controversial political figure. As Bram attempts to get information from Ashley and Kamal, they continue covering Ford’s tracks and spinning the story of his wild antics. However, that can’t go on forever. Eventually, it will all come crashing down. As this happens, we see it all through the eyes of people like Brahm, Ashley, and Kamal. Ricky Tollman writes and directs, with cinematography from Nick Haight, as well as a score from Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge. Supporting players include Gil Bellows, Lauren Collins, Jennifer Ehle, Scott Speedman, and more.

What sinks the film is the combination of the rat a tat dialogue not actually being interesting and the portrayal of Ford himself leaving much to be desired. Filmmaker Ricky Tollman has the aim of doing something in the vein of Aaron Sorkin, specifically his take on The West Wing, but it all rings hollow. The performances from the cast are all fine, yet unspectacular, while Damien Lewis mostly is just distracting in all of the makeup needed to turn him into Ford. When you can’t even make Rob Ford a captivating figure (even for all the wrong reasons), you know something has gone wrong.

Run This Town is only a little over 90 minutes long, but always seems to be stretching its story out. It’s as if Tollman realized that his angle on the story removed most of the drama, and instead of pivoting, doubled down. It’s a unique attempt, but it undeniably fails. Aside from the stunt casting of Lewis as Ford, there isn’t even a real curiosity factor here. Making that larger than life political figure so small in the grand scheme of things is an interesting choice, but it just does not work. Tollman is a filmmaker to watch out for in the future, but this clearly is a misfire.

Now playing in limited release, Run This Town is a major disappointment. A movie about Rob Ford should have been, at worst, a fascinating train wreck. Instead, it’s just a dull drama that has delusions of grandeur. Political junkies might want to give this one a look out of sheer curiosity, but what they’ll find just doesn’t cut it. This flick simply isn’t up to snuff, plain and simple.

Run This Town is in theaters now.

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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