A picture divided against itself, City of Joy is half American-style gangster melodrama and half inspirational social consciousness. Impressively produced in Calcutta's teeming poverty-ridden streets and slums, Roland Joffe's noble attempt to portray the tenacity and strength of the human spirit comes off as curiously ineffectual due to predictable plotting and character evolution.

A picture divided against itself, City of Joy is half American-style gangster melodrama and half inspirational social consciousness. Impressively produced in Calcutta’s teeming poverty-ridden streets and slums, Roland Joffe’s noble attempt to portray the tenacity and strength of the human spirit comes off as curiously ineffectual due to predictable plotting and character evolution.

Inspired by selected stories in Dominique Lapierre’s 1985 international bestseller, City of Joy is a direct descendant of the Casablanca school, with a disenchanted, cynical Yank heading for exotic climes to both alleviate and exult in his ennui, and finally finding something in himself he thought had died or never existed.

Fleeing from the rigors of life as a surgeon in Houston, Patrick Swayze’s Dr Max Lowe arrives in Calcutta with the vague idea of seeking enlightenment. Assaulted and robbed, Max is taken to the City of Joy Self-Help School and Dispensary, presided over by a beleaguered but selflessly saintly British woman (Pauline Collins). Max becomes cheerleader for the dispossessed people of City of Joy in their battle against the local mafia.

An admittedly chancy choice to play a jaded medic, Swayze gives it the old college try, but he doesn’t have depth. Appealing as always, Collins has nothing but routine buttons to push as she uses all her wiles to win the doc over to her cause.

City of Joy

UK - France

Production

Lightmotive. Director Roland Joffe; Producer Jake Eberts; Screenplay Mark Medoff; Camera Peter Biziou; Editor Gerry Hambling; Music Ennio Morricone;; Art Director Roy Walker

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1992. Running time: 134 MIN.

With

Patrick Swayze Pauline Collins Om Puri Shabana Azmi Art Malik Ayesha Dharker
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