Film Review: American Night

STUDIO: Saban Films | DIRECTOR: Alessio Della Valle | CAST: Emile Hirsch, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jeremy Piven, Maria Grazzia Cucinotta, Michael Madsen, Paz Vega
SPECS: R | 123 min. | Action thriller

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie

Part action film and part art caper with martial arts sequences thrown in for good measure, American Night is an ambitious attempt to bring a film noir mindset to dueling genres.

Dark and moody, boasting stylized studio sets of New York City (it was actually shot in Bulgaria!), the film looks great. Even with a contemporary setting, Italian writer-director Alessio Della Valle certainly knows how to capture the atmosphere of a 1940s thriller. Unfortunately, his screenplay is a messy affair, shifting the key players’ motivations and adding new characters that come and go…then come back again.

The story is simple, but the complications make it messy. American Night essentially revolves around the quest to find Andy Warhol’s famous silkscreen painting of Marilyn Monroe—the one with the pink background– which has gone missing.  Among those with a stake in it are the son of a late mobster who really wants to be an artist (Emile Hirsch, Freaks) and a scheming art expert who wants to open his own gallery (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, The Aspern Papers).  Along the way, mobsters and conmen get involved in the proceedings, Tarantino-ing up things in the process.

The oddball cast adds to the film’s unpredictability as it also features a menacing Michael Madsen (Rock, Paper, Scissors), Jeremy Piven (Last Call) as a kung fu stuntman (!), and Spanish beauty
Paz Vega (Sex and Lucia) as Meyers’ art curator girlfriend.

More artsy than artful, American Night attempts to shine a fresh light on modern-day noir but, while flashy, it’s simply too dim in too many areas to succeed.

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.