USA Network's Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story tries to boil down the life of a very complex man into two hours. The result: jumbled snapshots from various career stages, interwoven with scenes of his actions as the head of New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.
The movie opens on that day, showing the mayor, portrayed by James Woods, as he's briefed in the shadow of the burning World Trade Center. The frenetic and shaky video work of the Sept. 11 scenes matches the actual footage, which is interspersed throughout. The images of people falling to their deaths and close-ups of the towers remain harrowing and painful.
Also jarring are the movie's jumps through time. From 2001, the film returns to 1982 when a younger Giuliani — who looks exactly like his incarnation two decades in the future — woos Donna Hanover (Penelope Ann Miller) in Miami. The scene comes across as corny. On their first date, Rudy lays down his three loves in life — law, opera and the New York Yankees. He then takes Hanover for the standard walk on the beach and they share a first kiss.
We then follow Giuliani through events in his professional career, which play more like a highlight reel than a movie. On his first day as U.S. District Attorney in New York, Rudy utters the first of his many variations of the oft-repeated phrase, "I love this city." His fights against the mob and crooked Wall Streeters get the most play. The movie also does a decent job portraying one of the defining moments of his political career—stirring protesting police officers into a frenzy outside Mayor David Dinkins' City Hall. But other controversies — like the Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo police-brutality cases — receive little, if any, mention.
The movie makes much of the role that Cristyne Lategano played in his administration, but only hints at their often-denied affair. The problems in Giuliani's marriage are well-documented, though, and Judith Nathan has firmly replaced Hanover by the end of the movie.
Viewers who have seen Giuliani on the nightly news for the past 10 years will have trouble seeing past James Woods the actor. While Woods does an able job creating Guiliani's cult of personality, the movie is crippled by its failure to look deeper.
Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story premieres Sunday, March 30 at 8 p.m. ET on USA.