What to do when your personal crusade gets you arrested? Make a movie about it instead — or at least, that’s what Henry Bean did, with his amusing but marginal diatribe against aural assault in Manhattan, “Noise.” Rather than continuing his one-man vigilante campaign on the streets against car alarms, Bean wrote it up, cast Tim Robbins and cobbled together a pleasant, decidedly low-budget one-trick pony with little chance of theatrical play outside Gotham itself. ThinkFilm plans an initially limited release in February.
Based in part on the helmer’s personal experiences, pic conveys the sense of a diverting project made with friends, certainly a far cry from Bean’s hard-hitting debut, “The Believer.” Unwieldy flashback narration especially hurts the story’s thrust, as David Owen (Robbins) combats the car alarms he just can’t tune out.
It began simply enough, with Owen satisfying his anger by letting air out of the tires of offending vehicles. A few years of this, however, leads to more violent measures (smashing windows and cutting alarm wires), until he’s finally arrested. His lovely cellist wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan) gets him to scale back his methods by taking the offenders to small-claims court, but when every case is thrown out he goes on the rampage, becoming “The Rectifier.”
Owen’s obsession with city noise obliterates everything else in its path: He loses his job (never specified), his wife kicks him out of the house (and what an impressive brownstone it is, too) and, despite the personal satisfaction derived from smashing up noise-makers, his one-man operation isn’t making a dent. Then he meets Ekaterina (Margarita Levieva), a sassy Russian immigrant and freelance journalist who convinces Owen a referendum on an election ballot could do more than all his windshield-smashing.
The stage is set for a showdown with Mayor Schneer (William Hurt, channeling Rudy Giuliani and sporting a deliberately bad dye job), though the script never demonstrates why the mayor is so opposed to the initiative. This and many other lacunae keep tripping up the pic’s argument, while added scenes — such as the sexually aggressive Ekaterina organizing a three-way with ballot volunteer Gruska (Maria Ballesteros) — go nowhere.
Pic’s premise, however, remains amusing, and David’s righteous outbursts of pent-up frustration will have identifying Gothamites applauding. However, preachy elements should be ditched, such as Owen’s declaration to the viewer, “Ah, you think I’m a fiction, but your suffering is real and you just sit there.”
Quibblers will be sure to point out the car alarm problem has gotten considerably better in recent years, though New York auds will have to recalibrate their learned survival immunities after “Noise” resensitizes them to the sounds around them. Oddly enough, Bean ignores one of the greatest noise culprits of recent years, the booming music in restaurants; here, dining establishments are havens of tranquility.Aside from the vicarious thrill of watching car alarms wrenched from their vehicles, pic’s chief pleasure is the easygoing, utterly believable partnership between Robbins and Moynahan, the latter especially well cast. Levieva (“The Invisible”) doesn’t fare as well, perhaps owing to the role’s amorphousness. Hurt obviously enjoys his caricature, though stronger writing could have provided him with even more to sink his hungry teeth into.
Lensing allows for playful use of split-screen and the like, but at screening caught, transfer to DigiBeta dulled colors throughout.