9 December 2006 | DeeNine-2
Fine performance by De Niro
This is a remake of Night and the City (1950) directed by Jules Dissan, who was blacklisted by Hollywood because of actions by the House Un-American Activities Committee, and for that reason is dedicated to Dissan who had to continue his career in Europe. The original film starred Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Francis L. Sullivan and Herbert Lom. I haven't seen that film, but I understand that it is very good.
This film from 1992 is not bad; however for some reason its reputation isn't much. The voters at IMDb give it a rather tepid 5.7 stars out of 10 while giving the original 8 out of 10. I'm not sure why, but I think it has to do with: (1) Robert De Niro playing a non-heroic character. It certainly doesn't have anything to do with his acting. He is outstanding as Harry Fabian, flimflam low life lawyer and cheap BS artist who tries desperately to make a big splash as a fight promoter. I think most De Niro fans would prefer to see him in a more two-fisted role. At any rate, those who didn't like the movie almost certainly didn't care for De Niro's performance since his character dominates the action.
(2) The ending, which some might see as unfinished and others as disagreeable since, regardless of what transpires, Fabian is still a loser, perhaps bigger than ever.
(3) Some rather cheesy plot play. Near the end Fabian and Helen (Jessica Lange looking as fetching as ever) hide in a dead end alley among dumpsters and trash cans. Well, they should have continued running since the guys after them were only walking. Also when Fabian and Helen run out the side door of the restaurant they go the wrong way so that the heavies can see them running across the street. Had they turned left instead of right (as anybody in their situation would have done) they would not even have been seen. Furthermore, Fabian in a flamboyant gesture throws $12,000 into the air that flutters to the ground in the dead end alley. Nobody bothers to pick it up. That could happen.
What cannot be faulted is the authentic New York atmosphere created by director Irvin Winkler, who is better know as a producer, most notably of the Sylvester Stallone "Rocky" films, and the fine work by the rest of the cast, especially Alan King (Ira "Boom Boom" Grossman), Eli Wallach (Peck), Cliff Gorman (Phil Nasseros), and Jack Warden (Al Grossman). The story itself, from a novel by Gerald Kersh (script by Richard Price), is a variation on the "lovable, colorful loser makes good" theme, only in this case, like an inept noir anti-hero, he falls on his face--more than once, by the way.
No real De Niro fan should miss this. Personally I thought it was one of his best performances. The rapid fire dialogue, the fawning, pathetic, yet somehow uplifting personality were not something most actors could pull off, at least not nearly as well. De Niro became the character he portrayed.
Bottom line: definitely worth seeing. You will not be bored.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)