Night and the City

(Irwin Winkler, USA, 1992)


Night and the City, a remake of Jules Dassin's 1950 film noir, is an absolute shocker.

From the very first frame, it is a painfully contrived parade of jazzy camera moves, slick lines and frantic gestures. Robert De Niro works hard at being ingratiating, but he is simply grating.

Harry (De Niro) is a low-life lawyer who takes on ludicrous cases in the hope of scoring a bundle off the rich, powerful and famous of the community. A con artist in love as in business, Harry is clearly heading for a fall when he messes with both a big-time gangster (Alan King) and a married woman (Jessica Lange).

I say that anyone who makes love the way this guy does (in possibly the clumsiest, ugliest sex scene of '90s cinema) deserves all the hard luck he gets.

Director Irwin Winkler tries to blend the styles of fine filmmakers he has previously produced, such as Martin Scorsese and Bertrand Tavernier, with memories of '40s comedies by Preston Sturges and thrillers like Abraham Polonsky's Force of Evil (1948). (Polonsky withdrew from involvement in Winkler's subsequent film, the hopelessly compromised blacklist drama Guilty by Suspicion [1996].)

But even with Richard Price, scriptwriter of the excellent Mad Dog and Glory (1993), on board, Night and the City is an ungainly mess which handles neither its various moods nor the transitions between them at all well.

MORE Winkler: At First Sight, De-Lovely, The Net

© Adrian Martin March 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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