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he learns that his late brother Tony was not the heroic Marine he worshipped but a coward who fled after striking a woman with a stolen automobile. His girl friend Angela disabled child and a rabid ex-husband, a vicious cop named Mike Rizzo \(Anthony John a street-smart builder who has fought his way into the upper middle class, must acquiesce in a scheme by the mayor and his toadies to burn a tenement Joe owns in order to replace it with a lucrative new structure. Reluctant, Joe asks a local ganglord for advice. “We’re social animals, Joe,” he is reminded, though the noun seems more accurate than the adjective. Getting ahead means getting along. Joe goes along with the scheme, and mere arson becomes homicide when a child dies in the fire. “We’ve got deals, deals for you,” promises an advertising pitch, but, when mimicked by the echolaliac, the pledge becomes the dismal anthem of Hudson City. Rather than liberating us, Sayles’ technique of cutting in and out of situations burdens us with the truth of universal failure. only black member of the city council, is cleancut and intent on cleaning up Hudson City. But he can marshal only one other vote, from the lone Hispanic on the council, for a bond issue to improve the public schools. Wynn’s ambitions have alienated him from the very people he presumes to represent, and when he shows up at the P Street Community Center, in suit and tie, he is taunted by Muslim militants. When young black thugs \(Jojo Smollett a jogging professor, Wynn is pressured into supporting their spurious counter-claim that the professor had attempted to molest them. One of the muggers attempts to apologize to his victim not only for the physical harm but also for the specious stigma of pederast. Desmond, his attacker, is curious about what Les teaches, and, told that his subject is “urban relations,” Desmond asks: “What’s that?” Relations in their hopeless city are defined and constrained by the categories of race and class. “I’m not in control of a damn thing,” realizes Joe, who has built his life on the premise that success as a builder would give him control. For Spike Lee’s city folk, doing the right thing is a puzzle. For Sayles’, it is an impossibility. An openly gay colleague urges Les to fight the false charges brought against him: “If you just roll over for them, they’ll never change.” The reels keep rolling for City of .Hope, but nothing important has changed by the time that they stop. “Hope is the thing with feathers,” wrote Emily Dickinson. It lays an egg in Hudson City. John Sayles, director of City of Hope ATITLE LIKE Homicide could be the kiss of death to a screenplay that aspires to be more than a police procedural. For his third film as both writer and director, David Mamet might have recycled titles from two of his many stage plays: either The Disappearance of the Jews or Bobby Gould in Hell. Bobby Gold, the main character in Homicide, is a Jewish cop, and, like Barton Fink in the Coen brothers’ recent film, he goes through hell. Like Barton Fink, Homicide is a nightmare of Jewish anxiety. And, just as the Coens tapped an Italian-American, John Turturro, to play a Jew, Barton Fink \(as well as the fawning Judas, Bernie Bernbaum, in their earlier so, too, does Mamet cast Joe Mantegna as an assimilated Jew forced by the revelation of rabid antiSemitism to confront his own ethnicity. “Arolind this studio,” boasted Columbia Pictures mogul Harry Cohn, “the only Jews we put into pictures play Indians.” Around these theaters, the only Jews in pictures are played by Italians. Mantegna’s Gold is a big-city detective, a specialist in hostage negotiations who lacks interests or relationships beyond his job. “You’re like my family, Tim,” he tells Dener on the force. The force is with him day and night. “Would you like to know how to solve the problem of evil?” asks a psychopath arrested for the murder of his own wife and children. “No,” replies Gold, “because if I did I’d be out of a job.” Gold would also be bereft of family. When we first encounter Gold, he and his colleagues are being upbraided by the African-American deputy mayor for letting a vio lent criminal named Robert Randolph \(Ving his work, the politician is furious. “You little kike,” he snarls. Gold and his gentile buddies are shocked, and so is the viewer. Aside from Barton Fink, where it is also liberally sprinkled, kike is a slur not often heard in these enlightened times. Anti-Semitic speakers are more likely to employ phrases like “that Jew broad,” which is what a black teenager calls the candy-store owner whose murder Gold is assigned to investigate. He would much rather be stalking Randolph, but, on his way to interrogate the killer’s brother-in-law, Gold happens on an old white woman lying on the floor of the store she ran in a decaying inner-city neighborhood. The first detail he notices is a Star of David hanging on the corpse’s neck. “It’s not my case,” he insists, lest he be diverted from the greater glamour of running Randolph in. Why waste his time and talent on what seems the obvious robbery and murder of an old Jewish merchant? The victim’s son is a wealthy and wellconnected physician, and Dr. Klein arranges for the Jewish detective to be assigned the case he maintains is not his case. At the doctor’s comfortable home, Gold is told that someone has been shooting at the rest of the Kleins. The detective’s skepticism is resented. “It’s always a fantasy?” asks Dr. Klein. Gold claims ignorance of what he is talking about. “That someone’s trying to hurt the Jews.” Gold’s mind is on the hunt for Randolph, not pogroms, death camps or the auto-da-fe. He goes into another room and phones his partner, Sullivan, to inquire about progress on the Randolph case. It is the turning point of THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19