Night Falls on Manhattan - * * * 1/2*

Night Falls on Manhattan is a thoughtful ethics drama that paints a gritty, realistic picture of corruption, law and politics. Andy Garcia stars as Sean Casey, an idealistic new assistant district attorney in New York. He gets his big break when his father, a veteran cop named Liam (Ian Holm), is involved in a deadly shootout with the biggest drug dealer in Harlem. Liam is grievously wounded, and the D.A. decides Sean should try the case, to add an extra emotional appeal to the jury. But the opposing attorney (Richard Dreyfuss) has plans of his own for the trial, which may prove to Sean the world is not as black and white as he once believed. Night Falls on Manhattan starts out with some rather standard character types (the naive lawyer, the streetwise cop, etc.), and at first it seems as if it will lazily drift along predictable lines. However, that proves to be not the case, as director Sidney Lumet and his talented cast have other plans. With some strong writing, and a few plot twists, the story veers away from its predictable path. The actors, for the most part, are able to enliven their archetypes with moving, realistic performances (only Lena Olin seems wasted in a “reluctant girlfriend” role). Andy Garcia is the lynchpin of the entire film, and he carries it off successfully, starting with charming naivete and slowly following the path of realization. The characters would be interesting to watch by themselves, but luckily they are in the midst of a entertaining and thought provoking drama about corruption in the big city. Intelligently written, Night Falls on Manhattan draws an uncomfortable, but compelling picture.

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