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Night Falls on Manhattan

A New Yorker who writes about shades of right and wrong, Daley has characters hold onto any values they can in a flawed world. They do wrong, are "bad," but not in the usual way. As the film opens, lawyer Sean Casey (Garcia) is training as assistant D.A., cut with scenes of cops on a major drug stakeout. Casey's dad Liam (Holm) and partner Joey Allegretto (Gandolfini) are onto Harlem's biggest dealer. As they kick in a door, intense gunfire critically wounds Liam. Three precincts send help; a cop, thinking a blowout is gunfire, shoots another, and he and the dealer flee in a squad car. Three cops are dead.

For publicity, this political hot potato for D.A. Morgenstern (Leibman) doesn't even go to assistant Harrison (Feore), but to young Casey, the cop's son, now up against hotshot Sam Vigoda (Dreyfuss), who wants to know why three precincts answered when one should've. Were they on the take? Vigoda has client (Mahmud-Bey) strip at a press conference: "I'm delivering my client in perfect condition; let's be sure he's at trial the same way." Was the bust bad? What doesn't Sean know about his dad or his dad's partner? Allegreto, a cop in the original bust Sean has known for years, looks him in the eye: "I swear to God, your father's clean." Can he trust him? Asked why only two cops were on such an important bust, elder Casey says, "On a good lead, you don't want too much word out."

At a sauna, where no one can wear a wire, Casey and Vigoda delicately ponder it all. Leibman steals a scene by pushing his character as far as he can. Is he completely political? Introspective in a quiet later scene, he understands his sad world. Casey lands in bed with Peggy Lindstrom (Olin), a Vigoda lawyer, who frankly says she couldn't wait to bed him. We can't guess the characters' morality. In a poor film, we'd cheer the assistant D.A. against the slickster defense attorney; when Peggy climbs into bed with the hero, we'd suspect treachery, just as we want to assume the cops are heroes or louses. But we don't know. The intelligent characters feel their way around; good people make mistakes, people who break the law might be committed to upholding it. In a society where people have only the choice between abject poverty and selling drugs, not everyone has the luxury of abstract decisions. This film is knowledgeable about the people who adjust to the city.
Director(s): Sidney Lumet
Writer(s): Sidney Lumet based on the novel by Robert Daley
Cast: Andy Garcia, Lena Olin, Richard Dreyfuss, Ian Holm, Ron Leibman
Release Date: 1997   
Keyword: New York cop movie
Target Age: 15+   Category: institutional issues
Documentary: no
Language: English   Reviewer's Name: Micah
Review: http://MRQE
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