Writer and director John Sayles takes a long, hard look at the rhythms of anger, frustration, idealism, and hope which pulse through a contemporary working-class city. Vincent Spano plays a disillusioned young man who quits a job working for his father and struggles to find a way of keeping his soul alive on his own. Tony Lo Bianco plays his father, a successful contractor who gets in trouble with City Hall when he refuses to involve himself in a shady deal to put up a profitable development in place of the slum apartments he runs. And Joe Morton plays a black city councilman whose leadership abilities are tested in several incidents which polarize the hatred and misunderstanding between the races.

Through the diverse activities of over three dozen characters in this film, we see some of the major challenges of urban living including crime, political chicanery, the patronage system, the demise of the work ethic, the rapacious side of capitalism, and the high cost of civic apathy. City of Hope helps us see that community is enriched or torn apart by the ethical decisions we make every day.