Manhattan Night Blu-ray Review
The crime noir genre may just forever be lost in the black and white era. It seems like any attempt at revitalizing it always falls short. Directors and writers just can’t quite match the tone, despite growing up on the genre. The attempts are too violent, too sexual, or generally confusing. MANHATTAN NIGHT has all three of those problems, but manages to entice, bite, and pull in the viewer.
Porter Wren (Brody) is a popular sleaze journalist. Despite writing for his newspaper’s most yellow part, he’s well known and well-read amongst the majority of New Yorkers that he comes across. In a voice over, he bemoans how social media has killed journalism, which is partly true, and talks about how no one’s willing to dig for the truth. At a work party he meets the recently widowed Carolyn Crowley (Strahvoski). Her husband, played by Campbell Scott, was murdered and his corpse was found in a sealed off building about to be demolished.
She wants Porter to investigate her husband’s death because the police can’t quite figure out how the body got there. Carolyn spins tales about her husband’s escapades, filming bizarre avant-garde ideas and gonzo cinema that may never see the light of day. As MANHATTAN NIGHT slowly progresses, we learn that she’s an unreliable narrator to her husband’s life, masking certain aspects of what exactly happened between them and why their marriage was so revolting and sultry at the same time. It also doesn’t help that she begins banging the happily married, father of two, Porter.
MANHATTAN NIGHT seems obsessed with keeping Carolyn in sexy clothing, or no clothing at all, while Porter watches from afar during her most self-intimate moments. It really adds nothing other than visual eye candy and unsettling feeling that the director had an unhealthy obsession with Strahovski. As for Carolyn’s husband, it seems odd that such an indie film director would have so much money. He seems to have thrown away a lot, leaving behind poorly filmed concepts, but just enough for Carolyn to live an extravagant lifestyle. Porter, in the midst of all the lies and unpredictable half-truths, comes across as a skeevy private eye more than a journalist. He finds a way to keep a straight face to his wife who continues to have faith despite his late night outs and no calls.
Remember how I said Carolyn is an unreliable narrator? It gets worse when Porter takes over narration duties. Generally Carolyn is narrating events to Porter. Porter takes over for narration when he needs to make some kind of statement about affairs in his life or wants to muse about life in general. You visualize him smoking a cheap cigarette saying these in between huffs of tobacco. The lack of focus actually benefits the movie because you do want to see how it all ends, but it ends like a silent church fart. It’s unclear who or what is to blame, but it’s unpleasant.
MANHATTAN NIGHT is shot with love and care, and is surprisingly based on a book. I can only assume the book makes a lot more sense because first time director Brian DeCubellis can’t seem to make sense of it. But if the ending is inherently supposed to remain unclear to the viewer, DeCubellis doesn’t even make that clear. Unless the entire point of the movie is for everyone to be frustrated and for you to discuss it with others who are equally as frustrated watching it. Of course I have no one to discuss this with and I wouldn’t recommend it.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2:39:1) New York City, which is stuck in a perpetual state of cloudy with a 70% chance of rain, comes through clearly on this blu-ray, complete with dimly-lit dark passageways and sullen skyscraper shots.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio mixing on this is fine, but nothing stands out in terms of soundtrack.
Commentary with Director/Producer/Screenwriter Brian DeCubellis, Actor/Co-Producer Campbell Scott and Cinematographer David Tumblety: DeCubellis talks the most on this, being the one who oversaw nearly every piece of the production. Scott adds a nice balance to DeCubellis, who can be too technical for casual listeners. Tumblety rarely gets a chance to talk, but when he does, he provides a nice insight to the look and feel of everything.
Behind the Scenes with Cast/Crew Interview (4:20): A standard look and talk with those who worked behind the movie. This feature doesn’t offer anything new or rewarding for watchers.
Deleted/Extended Scenes (17:35): There are four scenes that you can play all at once or separately. None of them add any greater meaning or depth to the story, and I could certainly find more scenes to cut if DeCubellis is interested.
“The Watcher” Featurette (4:33): Another feature that has some decent interviews, but nothing that sheds light on why this movie was bad or why it should have been good.
Director’s Notebook and Storyboards (3:37): A hands on look at DeCubellis’ filmmaking strategies.
MANHATTAN NIGHT Trailer
Also from Lionsgate