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Sometimes glimpses at real life are even more compelling then the fancies of pure fiction. Show Me A Hero takes us into the political movements of a small city tearing itself apart with issues of race and community through the eyes of the everyday people who get affected by the decisions of those in power and how it can tear them and those forced to solider the hard decisions apart.
Based on the book of the same name by Lisa Belkin, Show Me A Hero takes to a city, a generation removed from the strife of the civil rights movement, that hasn’t quite caught up as much as it needs to. Faced with a federal court order to build a small number of low income housing units in predominantly white neighbourhoods, and new mayor Nick Wasicsko (Oscar Isaac) is faced with an insurmountable task. Ordered to comply, his attempts to comply with the federal order ultimately sends a city into chaos with a municipal government that only wants to stall, neighbourhoods who are up in arms and decidedly behind the times and a man who at the time was the youngest mayor of a US city ever sees his political futures destroyed as he fought for the desegregation of public housing.
Based on a true story, Show Me A Hero is a portrait of how thankless the job of public service can actually be as city and municipal governments have to implement the national and federal will in spite of what their voters may actually want.
From masterful show runner David Simon with previous credits like The Wire & Treme and director Paul Haggis give us a subtle yet powerful portrait of the economic strife in the wake of Reaganomics and the undercurrent of racism that did and still exists in-between the classes and the races. This story of an idealistic young man, who not only wants to be the mayor but actually do the thing and as we see it all go wrong for him so very fast it is a fascinating glimpse at the fragility of the system and how it needs to be navigated in order to survive it all. Both Simon and Haggis paint a picture of how want the voters want and what the politicians doesn’t always jive with the reality of the world around them. It doesn’t hammer us over the head with ideologies but just wants to show us how it is. Not only from a political standpoint but from the inherent social wars and subtle racism that still exist all around us. It is a masterful story of the political machine and how it can turn on anyone a little too invested in it. Haggis never uses any overt visuals to get us emotionally invested and David Simon once again shows his unique touch for telling stories from the disadvantaged and often dangerous city streets.
On a whole the ensemble shines, but none of the side stories really resonate aside from Oscar Isaac and his idyllic story about how these political stars can shine so bright and then it can be over in just an instance. Isaac brings it with a wide eyed idealism that blows up in his face and while we like these characters who are trying to do the right thing and instill any kind of social change but we have to acknowledge that they are also borderline addicts who crave the power and potential glamour of public office. It’s no wonder Isaac won the Golden Globe for this as we both sympathize with and also marvel at his misfortune as we can all see how woefully he just wasn’t equipped for it all.
The likes of Bob Balaban, Jim Belushi, Catherine Keener, Winona Ryder & Alfred Molina all do fine work in support but Isaac is the anchor of it all as this guy who is simply in over his head in a fight that he just can’t win and it is a marvel to watch as a city of people fearful of change, struggle to fulfill the mandate of the federal government as Isaac plays a man who is watching his professional career get torn apart and there simply isn’t anything that he can do about it.
The special feature on this set gives us an in-depth look at the making of the series and the history behind the housing debate in Yonkers that divided the city for decades.
At the end of the day, this won’t be a story for everyone, but Show Me A Hero is a stunning look at the workings inside the halls of power and how the people that they are trying to work for can drive them into the ground. It’s a warning; while public service is a noble profession, you’d better go into it with all eyes open as it can bring the self-loathing and engendered racism of a populace to light and how the job has to be more than just trying to secure your next term in office.