American Night

Review by Rich Cline | 2/5

American Night
dir-scr Alessio Della Valle
prd Martha Capello, Ilaria Dello Iacono, Giorgio Ferrero
with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Emile Hirsch, Paz Vega, Jeremy Piven, Fortunato Cerlino, Michael Madsen, Alba Amira Ramadani, Annabelle Belmondo, Mara Lane, Lee Levi, Marco Leonardi, Maria Grazia Cucinotta
release It Sep.21 vff,
US 1.Oct.21
21/Italy 2h04

hirsch vega madsen

Is it streaming?

Ramadani, Rhys Meyers and Piven
Set in New York's art-world but shot in Bulgaria, this over-stretched thriller has a lurid noir tone and lots of saturated colour. Italian filmmaker Alessio Della Valle strains for a Pulp Fiction vibe in full-on characters and a three-part structure that plays with continuity, plus of course the brief presence of Michael Madsen. But the dialog and plotting aren't clever enough to fit together into something compelling or coherent.
Wannabe artist Michael (Hirsh) assumes control of his powerful mafioso family and starts looking for a famous Andy Warhol painting his father sold. It seems to be in a package stuntman Vincent (Piven) may have swapped with an identical one carried by Michael's courier Shaky (Cerlino). Meanwhile, Vincent's art critic friend John (Rhys Meyers) is pinning his career on opening a gallery, having given up his life as a forger for his art restorer girlfriend Sarah (Vega). But she's having doubts about his intentions. And now some gangsters are plotting a move against Michael.
Visual flourishes and flashbacks within flashbacks add pizzazz, although they leave the film feeling artificial and theatrical. Settings include deeply shadowed nightclubs and a gimmicky diner into which a series of gunmen enter guns blazing. But then everyone in this movie is armed to the teeth. Among the random touches that muddle the plot, gratuitously paint-splattered sex is intercut with blood-splattered violence. And pretty much everything explodes. Then Anastacia turns up to sing a love theme.

Each character is desperate in one way or another, and the actors play this earnestly while also diving into the bonkers dialog and action. Hirsch is the only who manages to have fun along the way, veering wildly from thoughtful to petulant to maniacal. Vega and Rhys Meyers develop some chemistry, although neither of their characters is allowed to come to life. And Piven's role is the most baffling, as he's sacked from a film set before turning to Bruce Lee for inspiration.

Della Valle's writing and direction are so inconsistent that none of the characters ever quite make sense. There's rather a lot of waffling dialog about the meaning of art and the need to create it, intriguing ideas that are never unpacked in a meaningful way. Instead, the movie is overloaded with gimmicky touches that look very cool but never connect into a story that's involving or gripping. And most of the big pay-off moments are either ridiculous or so derivative that they feel anticlimactic.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 29.Sep.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall