Al Pacino is John Pappas, the best Mayor New York never had. We know because he comes on like Elmer Gantry at every large public gathering, funerals a speciality. But are we're meant to admire his caring-sharing Democrat rabble-rousing? When not being a liberal-conscience drama, or perhaps a political satire (Pappas has presidential ambitions), the film, written by Ken Lipper and Paul Schrader, busies itself being an investigative thriller. Peppy young political strategist Cusack (Pacino's right-hand man) and Detectives' Endowment Association attorney Fonda race for the dark truth behind a Brooklyn street shooting that left a police detective, a small-time mobster and an innocent black child bleeding to death. Confused? The producers obviously were. Five screenwriters are credited, and the end product, despite moments of individual quality from an able cast, pulls in at least as many different directions. There's some attempt to probe the grindings of the Democrat Party machine; there's also a long hard look at the day-to-day workings of the Probation Office. All of this is moderately absorbing, and somehow, somewhere the movie does care; it's just that the notion of corruption being endemic in the US system ain't hot news.