May 2, 2024

NIGHT FALLS ON MANHATTAN: More Cop Corruption from Sidney Lumet

1996 / 112 min
Review by Mr. Paws😺

Late in his legendary career, Sidney Lumet revisited his favorite subject (corrupt cops) one more time, writing and directing Night Falls on Manhattan. While not quite as compelling as Serpico, the woefully underappreciated Prince of the City or Q&A, the film is a nice capper to what could be considered his Corruption Quadrilogy (which would make a pretty cool boxed set, if you asked me).

The protagonist in this one is idealistic young lawyer Sean Casey (Andy Garcia), who wins a high-profile case that puts cop-killing druglord Jordan Washington behind bars. Though the case is essentially a slam dunk, the victory boosts his career enough to be elected New York’s District Attorney. Afterwards, the defense lawyer Sean faced in the case, Sam Vigoda (Richard Dreyfuss) reveals to him the real reason he chose to defend Washington in the first place…to attack corruption in three different police precincts, where he suspects dirty cops were on Washington’s payroll.  

Sean’s professional ethics are put to the test when he suspects his own Dad (Ian Holm), a career cop who was shot trying to nail Washington, might have lied on the stand during the trial, thus denying him due process. However, since the results of the trial put-away an irredeemable, cold-blooded murderer, does Sean still uphold the law regardless, even if it might destroy his own father? It raises an interesting quandary.

Sean coaxes a guilty plea with sheer will.
The narrative is essentially divided into two halves. The first is the incident with the clash between Washington and the police, followed by the trial. The second involves Sean’s investigation and the unexpected gray areas regarding the law, along with an inconsequential romantic subplot between he and one of Vigoda’s attorneys, Peggy (Lena Olin). The first half is grittier and more focused (and features the only real action), while the rest is a little more meandering, with a comparatively anti-climactic final act. Still, I can’t imagine anyone actually being disappointed with the denouement.

As usual for Lumet’s films, the performances are generally excellent, Garcia arguably giving one of his career best. Holm is also affecting as Sean’s dad, while Dreyfuss, though a little underused, makes the most of the few scenes in which he appears. Though it doesn’t rank among the director’s classics, Night Falls in Manhattan is a solid late-career effort that revisits one of his favorite themes.

For its Blu-ray debut, the film has been given a nice 2K remaster and comes with two audio options. But somewhat surprisingly (for Arrow Video, anyway), there are no new bonus features. All the supplemental material, while interesting, is over twenty years old (most presumably from DVD releases).


NOTE: Free Kittens Movie Guide was provided with a promo disc for review purposes. Physical supplemental material included with the final product (booklets, artwork, inserts, etc) were not available for review.

THE DIRECTORS - From 2002, this hour-long episode from the series chronicles director Sidney Lumet's long career up to that point, featuring interviews with Lumet and many actors he worked with over the years. Great stuff.

INTERVIEWS - Made during production, this is a series of short on-set interviews with director Sidney Lumet and actors Andy Garcia, Richard Dreyfuss, Lena Olin, Ian Holm & Ron Leibman.


2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By director Sidney Lumet; 2) By actors Andy Garcia & Ron Leibmen, producers Josh Kramer & Thom Mount.


No comments: