Review: Noise

Noise never rises above being a tepid urban fantasy unwisely extended into a slight meditation on modern male powerlessness.

Photo: THINKFilm

Urbanites, and New York City residents in particular, will get a momentary chuckle from Noise, in which Tim Robbins’s David Owen goes vigilante-crazy on the metropolis’s incessant car alarms. After that fleeting smile of recognition, however, there are few moments of humor or drama in this character study from writer-director Harold Bean, whose follow-up to 2001’s The Believer is eventually as droning and one-note as the automobile security system clamor that drives its protagonist mad. After five years in Manhattan, David begins losing his marbles over incessant city noise, compelling him to take recourse by first letting air out of offending cars’ tires and, then under the pseudonym “The Rectifier” (replete with “Andre the Giant Has a Posse”-style calling-card stickers), smashing their windows and cutting their battery wires. This habit causes much distress for his wife (Bridget Moynahan) and daughter (Gabrielle Brennan)—especially once he goes to prison—as well as for Giuliani-esque Mayor Schneer (William Hurt), a caricature of a petty, power-hungry tyrant who can’t stand the Rectifier’s behavior. Bean casts David’s actions as a response to feelings of impotence, though the fact that David is also sometimes literally impotent in bed is about as deep as the proceedings get. Once kicked out by his spouse, David falls into a fling with a young woman (Margarita Levieva) who shows him that his anti-noise pollution cause célèbre—which leads to a momentous legal petition—is backed by New Yorkers at large, the proof being that supporters now want to have threeways with him. It’s all fun and games until David rigs a truck to blare myriad car alarms in front of Mayor Schneer’s office, leading to a court case in which a loss is, per the film’s oh-so-dreary sense of humor, really a win. It’s impossible to care about David’s victory for metropolitan ears or triumphant sense of empowerment, however, when Noise never rises above being a tepid urban fantasy unwisely extended into a slight meditation on modern male powerlessness, devoid of insight to the point that it amounts to so much, well, you know.

 Cast: Tim Robbins, Bridget Moynahan, William Hurt, Margarita Levieva, Gabrielle Brennan, María Ballesteros, William Baldwin  Director: Henry Bean  Screenwriter: Henry Bean  Distributor: THINKFilm  Running Time: 90 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2007  Buy: Video

Nick Schager

Nick Schager is the entertainment critic for The Daily Beast. His work has also appeared in Variety, Esquire, The Village Voice, and other publications.

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