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We never want to admit that our home city can be an epicentre of scandal and abuse of power. Growing up in the Greater Toronto Area, Rob Ford’s disturbing legacy was so commonplace, that it was treated more like clickbait than the tragedy that it was. This film, which quite literally hit close to home for me, is a wake-up call to the desensitization instilled in Toronto’s residents. It is also extremely captivating and fresh, with a very youthful cinematic energy. This was director Ricky Tollman’s feature debut where he chose the interesting path of focusing on the mess left in Ford’s wake as opposed to the wrecking ball himself.
Run This Town follows key players in the discovery of Rob Ford’s affiliation with drugs, as well as the publication of his sexual misconduct within City Hall. This film focuses on those orbiting the scandal, as they are the characters that give this narrative such rich texture and dimension.
The two opposing forces of Kamal, (Mena Massoud) Special Assistant to the Mayor, and Bram, (Ben Platt) an aspiring heavy-hitting journalist, highlight the rising tensions at the heart of this administration. Massoud’s performance is positively electric. Most notably, a confident and powerful POC character whose arc from relishing in being a spin doctor to ultimately choosing (an admittedly mild display of) allyship is one that I can (mildly) embrace.
Platt’s role of “entitled male millennial” was written with the intention of exploring that specific standpoint. Does this justify changing the protagonist’s identity to male, when in actuality, this story belongs to a female reporter? Hard no. Robyn Doolittle was the one to initially receive the video and break the story. This narrative benefits very little from centering a male viewpoint, and gosh does this male viewpoint love to whine when things don’t go his way. However, despite his obstacles throughout the film, a surprising lack of sympathy is invoked for Bram. Probably for the best considering there are other voices in this film whose focus definitely need to take precedence.
Enter Ashley, (Nina Dobrev) an absolute powerhouse. Calling out bad behaviour left and right. While Ashley acts as a fictitious stand-in for a number of real-life victims of Ford, watching her portray such courage and tenacity is revitalizing.
The fact that Rob Ford (Damian Lewis) himself was depicted as a movie-fied version of himself is not a deterrent to me. From his constituents to his staff, everyone had varying opinions on the man. Tollman’s approach to his “character” is reminiscent of what it was like to turn on the local news every night from 2010 to 2014 and think what on earth is this man doing to our city?
The depictions of Ford’s behaviour are grotesque and blatant; a striking, if difficult watch. The rest of this film is absolutely jam-packed with electricity and sharp wit. My eyes and ears were always on alert on this exhilarating ride.
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