Rudy (2003)



Director:  Robert Dornhelm. 

Starring:  James Woods (Rudolph 'Rudy' Giuliani), Penelope Ann Miller (Donna Hanover), Michelle Nolden (Cristyne Lategano), John Bourgeois (Peter Powers), Kirsten Bishop (Judith Nathan), Mark Camacho (Tony Carbonetti), Maxim Roy (Beth Petrone), Mariah Inger (Carrie Foster), Sam Stone (Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik), Michael Jeffrey Woods (Sam), Brian Wrench (Bill Simon), Alan Fawcett (FDNY Chief Peter Ganci), Philip Pretten (FDNY Commissioner Thomas Von Essen), Philip Spensley (Howard Safir), Francis X. McCarthy (Jim Kossler).


Based on the book Rudy! An Unauthorized Biography of Rudolph Giuliani by Wayne Barrett.


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

September 10, 2001.  With his limousine driver Rudy wants to take a tour of "my city".  He just wants to look at New York City. 

September 11, 2001.  8:00 a.m. Rudy comments that his name is political poison right now.  He is informed that a tower of the World Trade Center twin towers has been hit by a plane.  He asks his aide to get the White House on the phone right away.  Rudy learns that a plane has hit the Pentagon. 

Flashbasck.  Ms. Donna Hanover interviews Rudy on television.  She is more of a liberal than Rudy and thinks that he plays the role of "tough guy" a little too well.  That, however, does not stop Rudy.  He asks her out to dinner and she accepts.  She then asks him what happened to his marriage.  In answering Rudy reveals that he is not much of a hugger.  He keeps his feelings to himself.  He tells Donna that among his heroes are Churchill and Bobby Kennedy. 

April 1984.  Rudy and Donna marry.  Rudy gets promoted to the Office of US Attorneys in southern Manhattan.  To his new staff he comes on like gang busters.  He says he is going after the Mafia and will unleash the dogs of wars on them.  He then tells a nodding man to get out of his building.  On a jog Rudy tells one of the gangsters that he is coming after him and the rest of the Mafia guys. 

September 11, 2001.  One of the towers of the World Trade Center collapses.  Rudy and his staff have to bust their way out of a basement door in order to get onto the streets. 

Flashback.  Rudy tells his staff that he is going after Joe Bonano and the rest of the heads of the Mafia families.  He is going to use RICO (Racketeers, Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act) to charge the Mafia leadership with conspiracy.  His plan is to go after all the families at once.  He keeps his word and some 50 major Mafia members are sent to prison. 

Rudy then goes after the corruption on Wall Street.  He wants Boesky and Miliken in jail.  Missions accomplished.  Boesky goes to jail and Miliken gets ten years. 

Spring 1989.  Rudy pushes the idea of a fusion ticket with the liberal party to get him the mayor's job of New York City.  

November 1989.   Rudy loses the election to African-American David Dinkins.  In his concession speech he tries to be gracious, but the crowd won't let him.  He gets angry, yells at them and then leaves. 

September 11, 2001.  The second of the twin towers collapses. 

September 1992.  The police are mad at Mayor Dinkins.  They are opposed to an all civilian panel hearing police brutality complaints.  Rudy speaks to a policeman's rally and becomes almost demagogic in his opposition to Dinkins.  At night he asks his wife Donna what she thought.  She tells him that he could have been less inflammatory and Rudy hits the rough again.  Donna is opposed to his running for mayor again.

Rudy main assistant Peter tries to warn him of some problems.  He mentions that that there is talk the Giuliani has a "kindness deficit".  He is looking a bit too rough of a character.  And one thing he has to do is that he must try to keep a lid on his temper.  The women's vote may also be a problem for him.  So they recruit Donna to make a number of political pitches for her husband. 

Rudy is elected mayor.  He works terribly long hours and starts getting a little too close to his press secretary Christyne. 

September 2001.  One of Rudy's assistants, Beth, loses her fireman husband in the collapse of the twin towers. 

Spring 1994.  Rudy loves to micro-manage projects.  He even interviews workers to find out the problems facing major constructions projects. 

Rudy starts to go after "quality of life" infractions to prove that someone is in authority and will enforce even the "lesser" law violations.  He introduces the new police chief, Bill Bratton, to the press.  The police plan is to monitor city block by city block and every house if need be.  Rudy's main assistant warns him not to give Bratton too much leeway in his relations with the press.  The fear is that Bratton will start to hog the limelight and the credit for Rudy's anti-crime project.  But Rudy dismisses the idea.

Christyne video tapes a Yankee game that the mayor missed.  She and Rudy are getting even closer.  Bratton is getting more and more publicity.  The feeling is growing that someone is going to have to knock the guy off his perch.  Donna pays a surprise visit to Rudy and Christyne.  She is angry when the guard won't let her in.  She sneaks in and confronts Rudy.  She tells him not to try to con her.  They have been married 14 years and "You married me for life."  Donna threatens to make his life miserable if he makes her life that way. 

Spring 1999.  Donna takes out her frustrations by going crazy on the treadmill.  Amadou Diallo, a completely innocent black man, is shot 41 times and is killed.  There is great outrage among the minority community.  Al Sharpton, Charlie Rangel and Dinkins join forces to criticize the mayor and his police force.  Rudy's main assistant believes that another apology is needed.  The mayor is not one bit pleased.  Rudy is down to only 21% percent approval in the opinion polls.  But Rudy is reluctant to follow Peter's advice.  And Peter is so tired of being contradicted by Christyne that he could just scream. 

Peter quits.  He gives the main reason as Christyne. 

September 15, 2001.  Rudy performs the unpleasant task of identifying Beth's husband's body.  He gives the deceased's badge and wedding ring to her and she, of course, cries. 

The papers have the story that Rudy's father had a criminal record.  Back in 1934 he committed armed robbery.  To Rudy his father was an heroic figure and he is very upset at the press for digging this information up.  (Rudy never knew about this part of his father's life.)

The press now talks about Rudy having a relationship with a woman other than his wife. 

Rudy meets Judith Nathan and they soon become close friends.  She patiently listens to his complaints about Hilary Clinton who he is running against for the US Senate.  Rudy tells Christyne that she is out.  He gives her the top job at the Convention Bureau. 

Rudy receives the news that he has prostate cancer.  Judith, a registered nurse, takes care of him.  News breaks about Judith and Rudy.  The press discusses Rudy's broken marriage.  At a press conference, Rudy says that his marriage is broken and Donna and he will begin a legal separation.  Donna is absolutely shocked since she had not discussed any of this with Rudy.  She curses him for not having the courage or decency to tell her before he told the press. 

Rudy's popularity rose during the fight against prostrate cancer, but then went down with the revelation of his marital problems. 

Rudy drops out of the race for the senate. 

Fall of 2001.  Rudy is exhausted gong to one funeral after another.  He attends some 150 funerals. 


Good movie.  It presents the genius of Rudy Giuliani and his major flaws as well.  At this moment of writing, Rudy is running for the presidency of the United States.  I think the man would be just awful.  Living just outside of New York City I followed the news of Rudy's time in the office of mayor.  I liked his crack down on crime and the Mafia.  I also liked his campaign against "quality of life" infractions.  But he was terribly divisive when it came to the minority question.  He gave the appearance that he just did not give a damn about the minorities.  I have noticed that when New York City mayors start losing it on the minority issues, they are soon gone.  New York City is a city of minorities and the residents of the City must feel that their mayor will be fair and equal to every group of people, minority or majority. 

What I wrote earlier.  Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, became a national hero with the events of 9-11, the destruction of the World Trade Center skyscrapers on September 11, 2001 by Muslim extremists.

And as a recent hero, it is hard to have any objectivity about Rudy the man.  I read a review of the movie that complained that the movie focused too much on the negative aspects of our national hero.  And in these days with a war in Iraq and another ongoing war on terror, there is a little implication that such a movie is actually disserving of the nation and perhaps even downright unpatriotic. 

But if you still believe in free speech, even during wartime, and can manage some objectivity, the film is an excellent one.  It is a more rounded picture of Rudy than one hears from the current speeches about the man given by those beating the drums of war.

Rudy Giuliani was a man with great strengths and great weaknesses and these were tied together.  As prosecutor, Rudy went after the mob with the furor of an avenging angel.  He performed a great service to the citizens of the greater New York Metropolitan Area by throwing a great many organized crime members into jail.  As Mayor of New York City, Rudy lowered crime in New York City and did indeed help break the impression that in the city no one was in charge, except perhaps the criminal element. And, in the 9-11 event, Rudy rose to the occasion, doing a marvelous job of rallying the spirits of not only the city but the entire nation.

But, like all men and women, Rudy had his faults, many of them tied to the same fervor that drove him to perform so well in the realm of law enforcement.  As an extremely driven man, he was so narrowly focused that he did not realize that he had a belief in himself as always right and, therefore, was somewhat blinded to the opinions and feelings of others; he worked too many hours and ignored his relationship with his wife Donna Hanover (played by Penelope Ann Miller); being  somewhat of a control freak, he went after the strip joints in New York City as if they were illegal activities, like the mob, that had to be stamped out even though the courts said they were legal; and he gave the impression that he did not care for the rights and concerns of minorities in the city.  And it was his seeming unconcern with the rights of minorities that helped his ratings as a mayor plummet to 21 percent. The mayor of New York City has to give the impression that he cares about all the ethnic and racial groups within the city without favoring one over the other or working against any ethnic group.  If they are not even-handed in this area, their reputation as a leader starts to quickly erode.  And this is what was happening to Rudy. 

In one respect, 9-11 saved Rudy Giuliani from just being another former mayor of New York City, one who, like Mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins, stumbled over the doubts of their fairness toward all ethnic/racial groups.  In our current state of high anxiety over terrorism and war, many want to forget that Rudy was actually a real man, one with good and bad qualities.  But the movie does not forget that Rudy is mortal, and presents a good portrait of the hero, warts and all.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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