''City of Hope'' may just be John Sayles' best film to date. He's done some interesting films (''Eight Men Out,'' ''Return of -- the Secaucus Seven''), but none has been as complete and perceptive as "City of Hope."
Sayles wrote, produced and directed the film, which takes place in Hudson City, where Tony Lo Bianco is a contractor with trouble on the job and at home. On the job, he is under pressure from the mayor and others who want him to surrender one of his tenements so that it can be leveled for development.
At home, he has to deal with a son who is into drugs and blames his father for having forced his brother to join the Marines.
The brother died in Vietnam, but what the younger brother doesn't know is that the father had to make a compromise, the same sort of compromise he is now facing with his surviving son.
''City of Hope'' is the story of a basically good man who finds himself doing things he would never choose to do but must do -- he has been placed in an uncertain position, first by his older son and now by the younger one. So he finds himself agreeing to compromises that will exact their own payment.
The film opens today at the Charles, where it will remain for one week (it's scheduled to open elsewhere locally in the near future).
''City of Hope'' *** A contractor is forced to make an unethical decision to protect his errant son.
CAST: Tony Lo Bianco, Vincent Spano, Joe Morton, Maggie Renzi
DIRECTOR: John Sayles
RATING: R (sex, nudity, violence, language)
) RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes