City on a Hill

Having the names Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson on a project gets my attention. Their collective credits include Oz, Homicide: Life on the Street, St. Elsewhere, Sleepers, Donnie Brasco and more.

With their newest work City on a Hill you can add the names Michael Cuesta (Homeland, Dexter), Jennifer Todd (Jason Bourne, Memento), Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Kyra Sedgwick as creatives, none of whom need any introduction.

The creator of this US crime drama is former Boston Herald journo-turned-screenwriter Chuck MacLean whose local experience with law enforcement forms the basis of this 10 part series.

Set in early 1990s, this pivots largely around 2 leads: Jackie Rohr (Kevin Bacon), a racist ‘sonofabitch’ FBI veteran who cheats on his wife (Jill Hennessy), snorts cocaine, and swaggers around town contemptuously because he can.

“Times are changing. It’s not 1983 anymore,” a colleague warns, to little effect.

The other lead is assistant district attorney Decourcy Ward (Aldis Hodge), a black man who believes, somewhat blindly, in the legal system despite the decaying signs around him.

When Ward is asked by Rohr to let a young assailant (Rory Culkin) go free, the two men feud and back into their respective corners.

But there are bigger crims to nab with young mobster Frankie (Jonathan Tucker) commandeering robberies of armoured tanks amongst.

Family is also a big factor amongst these characters. Frankie is portrayed as a doting dad who even resorts to scratchie cards for a windfall, while the bent FBI Rohr lis to his (under-utilised) wife and ribs his daughter.

Yet despite the inherent racism Rohr and Ward will be forced to make alliances for the greater good.

Dashing Aldis Hodge fits the leading man bill to a tee while the always-dependable Kevin Bacon is suitably unlikeable. In the harsh, snowed-in city of Boston there are also plenty of supporting characters vying for attention in this expansive ensemble, which is a bit of a challenge.

But the plot is somewhat uneven and there’s a fair whack of ground covered that has been present amongst others in the genre. Released at a time when When They See Us also tackles racism, police and the ’90s, the fiction of City on a Hill has its work cut out.

There’s enough groundwork to suggest it will make a good fist of it.

City on a Hill is now screening on Stan.

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