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Laramie Movie Scope:
Night Falls on Manhattan

An old-fashioned drama with great performances

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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June 8, 1997 -- "Night Falls on Manhattan" is a movie in the old Hollywood tradition about tough guys in a tough business, sentimental, yet with a cynical edge.

I wasn't expecting such a traditional film and it caught me a little off guard. I was expecting another one of those hip gangster films made popular by Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction." Instead of dumb hoods we have intelligent characters dealing with politics, corruption and moral dilemmas. Imagine, characters who think!

This kind of movie didn't used to be so unusual, but now studios are gearing their films for overseas markets and uniquely American films like this are becoming rare. To get the most out of this film you not only have to be immersed in American culture and politics, but New York City culture and politics specifically.

The hero, Sean Casey (Andy Garcia) is a young prosecuting attorney whose father, Liam (Ian Holm) is shot and seriously injured by a drug dealer named Jordan Washington (Shiek Mahmud-Bey). For political reasons, District Attorney Morgenstern (played to the hilt by Ron Leibman) throws the case in Casey's lap.

Casey does a great job prosecuting the case and his father is the star witness. Then Morgenstern has a heart attack and Casey is elected the new chief prosecutor for the city. Suddenly, his luck changes. He finds his case is unraveling because of police corruption.

What once seemed to be a fairly simple situation has become quite complex and sticky. Casey must decide if he wants to deal or if he wants to stick with his old ethics. Complicating matters is his love affair with Peggy Lindstrom (Lena Olin). Lindstrom works for arch-enemy Sam Vigoda (Richard Dreyfuss), a liberal defense attorney who seems a lot like real-life lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

Casey has vowed to follow the corruption investigation wherever it may lead, but that leads him down a tortuous path. He thinks it through and makes his choice. This movie is about tough choices and people who make them with courage and intelligence.

Another thing about the film is that the cast is solid all the way down the line. Even the minor characters like the desperate, corrupt cop Joey Allegretto (James Gandolfini) are excellent. Garcia achieves almost Pacino-like levels of intensity, but he seemed to be a little too unscathed by what was going on around him. Holm does show that regret in a fine portrayal of a grizzled veteran detective. Veteran director Sidney Lumet does a great holding this complex film together.

The only thing not traditional about the movie is the editing. At times Sam O'Steen's editing looks like time-lapse photography as the image zooms ahead. Traditional Hollywood editing doesn't draw attention to itself. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1997 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)