Night Falls on Manhattan

"Good"

Night Falls on Manhattan Review


With Night Falls on Manhattan, Sidney Lumet has created one of the most dedicated issue movies in a long time. As a high-profile, yet righteous, defense attorney (a first in modern film), Richard Dreyfuss's character admits that he took an unwinnable case because he wanted to expose corruption in the NYPD. Lumet seems to have created an unwinnable film for similar reasons.

Lumet has taken a very bare-bones approach with the plot of Night Falls on Manhattan. One minute Andy Garcia's Sean Casey is an assistant DA trainee, the next minute he is the District Attorney of New York. Likewise, the first twenty minutes of the film set up a courtroom drama which Lumet flies through in a series of quick scenes. Unconventional editing techniques, including periodic jump cuts and abrupt truncations of scenes that barely seem to have begun, help push the narrative forward, all of which serves to confuse the audience as to the film's true focus.

Ultimately, it becomes clear that the goal of this hectic structure is to unfold a series of issues for the audience. Lumet confronts us with tough questions at every turn: Who do we blame for police corruption? To whom is a lawyer most responsible, the law or his family? How much can we share with the people we love? Lumet packs it in, and he does so by creating several only-in-Hollywood coincidences. For example, Garcia happens to be in the right place to try the case of the drug dealer that shot his father. The perfect woman for Garcia also just happens to work for a lawyer on the other side.

The issues and questions that Lumet poses are powerful, but his plot manipulation and acceleration for the sake of these issues hurts his bid to satisfy a sophisticated audience. In his need to get in and out of every scene in half the time that it should take to develop, Lumet seems to have resorted to a short-hand form of directing his actors. At every emotional point in the story, one character invariably begins yelling. Lumet is obviously trying to make a point that such issues lead to uniform short-temperedness, but the consistency of these outbursts prevents us from distinguishing the different character's personalities.

With this subject matter, Lumet is obviously trying to make a gritty, un-Hollywood picture. The sets (such as a courtroom modeled after Lance Ito's instead of Perry Mason's) and the overwhelmingly drab color of the film beg us to look at it as a slice of realism. However, the plot twists and flat characters confound this attempt to make an intelligent film. Lena Olin, miscast and unbelievable as Andy Garcia's love interest, portrays the most awkward character. Not until the end of the film does it become clear that her character is actually in love with Garcia's, when the plot resolution tells us so.

An audience looking for a traditional Hollywood courtroom drama will be taken aback by Night Falls on Manhattan. Nevertheless, it brings with it some powerful questions which a thoughtful audience will want addressed. In the end, the film's uncomfortable blend of Hollywood conventions and complex subject matter will have a hard time finding its audience among the main-stream majority of moviegoers that are only looking for answers.



Night Falls on Manhattan

Facts and Figures

Run time: 113 mins

In Theaters: Friday 16th May 1997

Distributed by: Republic Pictures Home Video

Production compaines: Paramount Pictures, Spelling Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Fresh: 19 Rotten: 9

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Sean Casey, as Liam Casey, as Joey Allegretto, as Peggy Lindstrom, Shiek Mahmud-Bey as Jordan Washington, as Elihu Harrison, as Morgenstern, as Sam Vigoda, as Judge Impelliteri, as McGovern, Bonnie Rose as Instructor, Norman Matlock as Detective, Sidney Armus as Judge

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

Advertisement
The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.