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Sydney Lumet's Night Falls On Manhattan is the kind of morally complex, daring, emotionally charged, all out classic that most films of its type wish they could be. It explores police corruption, double standards and hypocrisy in the justice system so unnervingly that by the end of the film we as an audience don't have a clue where to position ourselves or who to root for. Perhaps this is why it was so overlooked, people just got too scared by the provocative, damaging implications of the subject matter, and chose to gloss over it. Shame. It is one of the most mature films I've ever seen about the tough subjects it tackles, never shying away from the blunt, unsolvable problems that this justice system raises, and never solving the, itself in the film. The truth hurts, as the characters find out. Andy Garcia, an actor I usually don't like too much, is excellent as an idealistic young law grad who suddenly finds himself in the spotlight when the trigger happy hound dog DA (Ron Leibmann in a hilarious, manic, spellbinding performance) chooses him to prosecute a murderous drug kingpin who gunned down several police officers and badly wounded one who happens to be Garcia's father (Ian Holm). The plot doesn't follow any cinematic or genre conventions, but seeks to overturn them, creating a searing, realistic narrative and ruthlessly throwing its characters into situations that no human being should have to endure, but situations that are ultimately of their own flawed design. It's an absolute dynamite and comes up strong in every category. Ian Holm, a British thespian, nails every scene with a lived in, authentically brilliant performance, and breaks your heart with his Everyman desperation and anguished soul. James Gandolfini is reliably awesome as his partner. I have no clue why this film slipped through the cracks, but like I said before, it probably scared people with its unflinching, uncompromising and bitter indictment of our deeply flawed Justice system. Personally, I feel like we need more movies like this, a breath of un-clichéd, truth hurts fresh air filmmaking and a welcome addition into the NY crime drama sub genre.
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