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Review: ‘Run This Town’ runs the table in a true tale of mayoral malfeasance in Toronto

Jennifer Ehle and Ben Platt in the movie ‘Run This Town’
Jennifer Ehle and Ben Platt in the movie “Run This Town.”
(Oscilloscope / Quiver Distribution)

Smart, ambitious and impressive, “Run This Town” is the best kind of feature directing debut, a film that entertains and makes you look forward to what will come next.

Written and directed by Ricky Tollman and inspired by a real-life scandal that enveloped Toronto’s then-Mayor Rob Ford half a dozen years ago, “Run This Town” does several things well.

It delivers a savvy portrait of millennials — eager to get ahead in a world they never made while coping with multiple pressures — by presenting two individuals who end up working two sides of the same situation.

Mena Massoud (“Aladdin”) plays Kamal Arafa, a special assistant to Ford, who is — truly — a larger-than-life mayor (that’s Damian Lewis under a ton of makeup).

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Kamal’s job is spinning Ford’s periodic bad behavior, and when he hears about a tape that shows the mayor smoking crack, he swings into action.

Bram Shriver (Ben Platt, Tony winner for “Dear Evan Hansen”) is an aspiring journalist stuck doing “best of” lists. Eager to prove himself to his acerbic bosses (Jennifer Ehle and Scott Speedman, both excellent), he too gets wind of the tape and goes after it.

Intent on telling these individual stories (as well as that of another Ford assistant played by Nina Dobrev), “Run This Town” also finds time for generational commentary and an examination of how both politics and journalism operate. It’s as convincingly verbal as its characters, and that’s saying a lot.

'Run This Town'
Rated: R, for language and sexual references

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Playing: Starts March 6, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; also on VOD

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