Night Falls On Manhattan

Writer/director Sidney Lumet has been around so long that it's probably better to begin with his insight into this story, which he calls "a moral melodrama about personal choice." He tells us further that "It's my favorite kind of film, pitting purity and optimism against political expediency and cynicism." Thank you, Sidney. The atmosphere of the movie itself manages to transport one back to the edgy, nerve-twitching feeling some of us will recall from Lumet's Twelve Angry Men. Not restricted to the problems encountered in the confines of one room on this occasion, the new film stretches its horizon throughout the system, the city, and a number of lives, finally coming back to the internal affairs (bad pun) of our main character to resolve the situation.

Manhattan District Attorney Sean Casey (Andy Garcia) has worked his way up from street cop, but hasn't lost any of his idealism (yet). He walks around with his head in the clouds, as far as many of his colleagues are concerned, and the audience wonders how he's remained virginal in a city like New York for so long. It winds up being tainted evidence and the involvement of people close to him in a crime that start shredding the nebuli. The time has come for Sean to start thinking more earnestly about loyalty and morality. Following along the path toward righteousness we meet, among a host of figures, defence attorney Sam Vigoda (Richard Dreyfuss), Vigoda's colleague and Casey's new romantic interest Peggy Lindstrom (Lena Olin), Casey's fully supportive D.A. Morgenstern (Ron Leibman), and Casey's dad (Ian Holm, who, along with a flawless performance, gives an astoundingly perfect rendition of a New York dialect where many an Englishman might have failed). All of them are outside, but important influences on the central matter, which is the world as seen by Sean. As Sidney puts it, "Sean Casey finds that to be successful in his work or to even function at all in the job, for that matter, he has to keep taking steps to compromise his own integrity and finally has to decide which way he wants to live his life -- by their rules or by his own."

Director Lumet does a fine job once again, and nothing short of that would ever be expected of him. (N.B.- see The Green Hartnett's Green Emeralds for the listings of Long Day's Journey Into Night and The Pawnbroker) This is his 40th film and the 29th shot entirely on location in New York. He elicits magnificent performances from a talented cast and, being an actor's director, as a rule of thumb spends time rehearsing the scenes in sequence with the cast before the cameras ever begin to roll. As Producer Josh Cramer explains, "The amazing thing about Sidney Lumet is how incredibly focused he is on getting exactly what he wants. He organizes the making of a film like a military campaign in which the objective and the strategy are determined before a single shot is fired and then he single-mindedly goes out and follows his plan step by step, never losing sight of his overall vision."

A good old-fashioned moral tale, taking place before the backdrop of present day New York Blue, supports the honest folk who make the system work. Although not quite according to the same method implemented under the present regime (also easily labeled "Night Falls on Manhattan") of mayor G. which is, more or less, "If you can't beat 'em, beat 'em."

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett