Run This Town

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Run This Town Movie Poster Image
Drama based on politician's scandal; cursing, drugs.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 99 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

When you're powerful you can get away with abuses.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A whiny newbie journalist wants more responsibility but doesn't show his editors that he's capable of handling it.


A drunken politician utters demeaning sexual phrases to an employee who doesn't want to lose her job. He's a bully.


Drunk and probably high, a boss over-hugs a terrified employee. He makes coarse sexual remarks about a young female employee, humiliating her in front of the whole office and claiming to have "banged" her "p-ssy." A reference is made to advertisements for "enlarged d-cks."


"F--k," "s--t," "c--t," "ass," "douche bag," "pr-ck," "p-ssy," "jerk off," and "d-ck."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The mayor of a major Canadian city was an alcoholic who smoked crack cocaine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Run This Town is a fictionalized telling of real-life Toronto mayor Rob Ford's misdeeds, including sexual harassment and smoking crack. His office aides are busy burying evidence while reporters are looking for proof and the police are trying to keep up. The material is for mature audiences, with lots of language, including "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," and "p---y," references to drug use, and sexual impropriety in the workplace.  

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What's the story?

RUN THIS TOWN is based on the scandal-ridden 2010-2014 term of Toronto mayor Rob Ford (played by Damian Lewis in a fat suit), with fictionalized behind-the-scenes efforts of an ambitious young aide named Kamal (Mena Massoud) to bury the mayor's misdeeds on one side and the flailings of an incompetent young reporter named Bram (Ben Platt) trying to expose them on the other. Bram is the inexperienced low man at a local paper, but has no skills to move up to full news reporter. Kamal is so competent that he is, to a degree, running the city while the blustery mayor goes on drunken sprees and smokes crack cocaine with kids who video him in the act. Like the real Ford, despite reports in the press and investigations by police, this mayor refuses to leave office when his actions are revealed.  

Is it any good?

This movie is delivered in unnecessarily jumpy chronology, with split screens and 360-degree camera turns that add nothing to the narrative or visual excitement. These decisions made by Run This Town's first-time writer-director Ricky Tollman don't in any way clarify or set a useful tone in this story about government corruption. And the journalism world he creates bears no likeness to actual journalism or the decision-making processes that go on in newsrooms. We're introduced to graduating senior Bram, played by Platt, as he delivers a powerful, sneering, glib put-down to someone explaining that he's missed the registration deadline for receiving his degree at his college's commencement. He dresses down the bureaucrat bitingly, with clever, quick-witted repartee. But that verbal agility, nerve, and boldness never make another appearance. Through the rest of the action he's self pitying and self absorbed, and utterly hopeless as an investigative reporter. 

Massoud as Kamal is an undeveloped character whose only identifying features are his condescension and cynical willingness to completely give up his moral obligations. Lewis' portrayal of the mayor may be spot on, but his words seem to be emanating from behind a rubber Halloween mask. The makeup job makes him look something other than human.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how powerful employers are able to get away with terrible behavior. Two employees say they're afraid they'll lose their jobs if they criticize their boss' inappropriate actions. Can you empathize with people who refuse to come forward because they're afraid to lose their jobs? Why or why not?

  • Do you think it's okay for a politician to behave badly as long as they do their jobs well? Why or why not?

  • How do you feel about an actor wearing a fat suit to portray a character in Run This Town?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love politica

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