May 30, 1997 in Seven

Garcia Works Hard To Plug ‘Night’ Holes

Jay Carr The Boston Globe
 

Nobody’s hands are altogether clean in Sidney Lumet’s “Night Falls on Manhattan,” and that’s one of its strengths, given that it’s about the compromises and complicity involved in making a big city’s justice system work on a day-to-day basis. The plot at times seems clumsy and forced. Also, credibility drops off sharply when it comes to idealistic district attorney Andy Garcia’s surprise at the way corners and deals are cut by good people, but the film has more pluses than minuses. One of them is its moral center, hard won and doggedly clung to, ever mindful of the fact that decency is worth fighting for, even when the warriors are tainted.

Trying for tragedy, the film settles for melodrama, but it boasts some wonderfully flavorful performances and Lumet’s almost offhand authority in conjuring up New York atmosphere. Acting, in fact, carries the film past some holes and renders it pungently entertaining. Garcia survives a character drawn with such saintliness that he seems first boring, then annoying as a straight arrow who makes trouble for himself by getting elected when he promises to fight police corruption. Then he finds the issue blowing up in his face when his own hero-cop father appears to be involved in a raid designed to kill a drug dealer carrying several cops on his payroll.

Ian Holm delivers the film’s best performance as the grizzled old widower cop whose heart is in the right place, especially in a scene when he awkwardly hosts a bachelor supper for his son and his partner. The latter is squirmingly and affectingly played by James Gandolfini, who’s convincingly pained over the heavy confession he feels he must get off his chest.

Richard Dreyfuss is flawless too as a trial lawyer who evokes Alan Dershowitz and the late William Kunstler, defending his client by attacking the system and rooting out police corruption.

And it must be said that Garcia rises to the challenge of mustering enough inner intensity to divert us from the film’s biggest credibility problem - why a supposedly street-smart cop’s lawyer son needs so long to figure out that life is mostly lived in gray areas. Why doesn’t he know this?

Still, “Night Falls on Manhattan” is a quality film and an absorbing one.

MEMO: Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. Night Falls on Manhattan Location: North Division Credits: Written and directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Andy Garcia, Ian Holm, James Gandolfini, Lena Olin, Shiek Mahmud-Bey, Colm Feore, Ron Leibman, Richard Dreyfuss, Paul Guilfoyle Running time: 1:54 Rating: R

2. Other views Here’s what other critics say about “Night Falls on Manhattan:” David Hunter/The Hollywood Reporter: ..th. overall the pacing is uneven and viewers not hooked into the story may find their attention wandering and suspension of disbelief wavering. Michael H. Price/Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Night Falls on Manhattan” is a thinking person’s cop thriller, and for the viewer who looks beyond the gunplay and double-crosses, the film will raise some provocative questions and pose some persuasive arguments. Paula Nechak/Seattle Post-Intelligencer: With all dramatic tautness excised from the film, what purports to be an introspective ethical voyage of self-discovery and loss-of-naivete winds up an unsuspenseful and truncated trip toward very little at all.

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. Night Falls on Manhattan Location: North Division Credits: Written and directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Andy Garcia, Ian Holm, James Gandolfini, Lena Olin, Shiek Mahmud-Bey, Colm Feore, Ron Leibman, Richard Dreyfuss, Paul Guilfoyle Running time: 1:54 Rating: R

2. Other views Here’s what other critics say about “Night Falls on Manhattan:” David Hunter/The Hollywood Reporter: ..th. overall the pacing is uneven and viewers not hooked into the story may find their attention wandering and suspension of disbelief wavering. Michael H. Price/Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Night Falls on Manhattan” is a thinking person’s cop thriller, and for the viewer who looks beyond the gunplay and double-crosses, the film will raise some provocative questions and pose some persuasive arguments. Paula Nechak/Seattle Post-Intelligencer: With all dramatic tautness excised from the film, what purports to be an introspective ethical voyage of self-discovery and loss-of-naivete winds up an unsuspenseful and truncated trip toward very little at all.


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