(THINKfilm) Tim Robbins, Bridget Moynahan, William Hurt, William Baldwin, Margarita Levieva, Gabrielle Brennan, Maria Ballesteros, Chuck Cooper. Directed by Henry Bean
Those of us who live in a small town as I do, or in a suburb as I did don’t have an idea of the everyday assault of noise for those who live in a city, as I also did. For the most part, you simply tune it out but some things become too much to ignore.
David Owens (Robbins) is a lawyer (methinks) who has begun to be driven wiggy by car alarms, alarms that wake him up in the middle of the night or interrupt his lovemaking sessions with his cellist wife Helen (Moynahan). At first, he contents himself with minor vandalisms against offending vehicles that leave him with a sense of partial justice but soon that becomes insufficient. He begins to smash windows with baseball bats, rip out wiring and so on. Until, that is, he gets arrested.
Helen, becoming increasingly concerned with her increasingly more obsessive and unstable husband, manages to get him to agree to a plea bargain in order to keep him out of jail. At first, he complies in order to keep the peace in his family but the ever-present assault of noise drive him farther and farther around the bend. He takes on the guise of the vigilante figure The Rectifier, leaving calling cards whenever he disables an alarm system.
Surprisingly (although frankly not to David) the exploits of The Rectifier capture the imagination of New Yorkers who cheer the vigilante’s one-man fight against noise pollution. This in turn captures the attention of Mayor Schneer (Hurt), who wants The Rectifier caught. Increasingly this becomes a battle of wills between the clearly not-quite-paddling-with-both-oars-in-the-canoe David and Hizzonner, who seems to take it as a personal affront that there is a man defying the law in his city. When a beautiful Russian lobbyist (Levieva) discovers David’s alter ego, she convinces him to try and get a ballot initiative banning car alarms in the five boroughs of New York City. That’s when the war really begins.
Director Henry Bean, who was last seen helming The Believer which featured Ryan Gosling as an anti-Semitic Jew does a good job of creating the feeling of aural assault that David Owens is surely feeling. However, he takes what was an interesting concept to begin with and tries to get fancy with his storytelling. The story bounces back and forth from the present to various points in a ten-year period, often with little or no way to tell where in the story events are taking place. None of the characters change physically in the ten year time span; you’d think one of them would at least get a different haircut from time to time, or maybe grow some facial hair but we are left trying to guess where in the story you are which leads to the musical question “Does anybody really know what time it is?” which of course begs the unwanted follow-up question “Does anybody really care?”
Robbins does a nice job of making a character who is essentially obsessive, self-righteous and a little bit around the bend remain likable enough that you don’t wind up being without anyone to identify with. Moynihan is also solid in a role that is essentially little more than an exasperated wife cliché. Sadly, Levieva gets a part that really doesn’t have a reason to be in this movie unless its for the titillation aspect.
Occasionally, the writing gets a little bit preachy and self-righteous but to be fair, there is some good, intelligent stuff that indicates that someone a fair amount of thought into this. There are also some moments of black humor that hit without warning, making those scenes all the more effective.
Ultimately Noise is an uneven effort that has just enough to make it worth a DVD recommendation (it also shows up on cable from time to time). It’s too bad it wasn’t a little bit better; Robbins deserved a better movie for his performance.
WHY RENT THIS: There is some black humor that comes out of left field from time to time. Robbins plays a whacko with enough wit and charm to make the character relatively palatable. Movie has a thoughtful air that is refreshing.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The storytelling conceit of jumping back and forth throughout a ten year timeline is often confusing. The writing occasionally gets preachy and not in a good way.
FAMILY VALUES: Vandalism is presented as justifiable throughout the movie; there is also sex, nudity and frank discussions about female genitalia as well as a scene depicting drug use. Although the movie went unrated, parents should think hard before letting their kids see this one.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Director Bean based the character of David Owens on himself; as a younger man he was arrested and jailed for breaking into a car and disabling the alarm.
NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.
FINAL RATING: 6/10
TOMORROW: Deja Vu