Film Review: American Night

Reviewer: Helen Tope

Writer and Director: Alessio Della Valle

Running on adrenaline, Alessio Della Valle’s American Night is an art-heist thriller that promises a great deal.

The film is written and directed by Della Vale, with a starry cast including Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Emile Hirsch and Jeremy Piven. American Night explores the underbelly of the New York art world, focusing on mob boss incumbent, Michael Rubino (Emile Hirsch). A fan of contemporary art, Rubino is secretly an artist himself. On the death of his father, Rubino wants his inheritance – Andy Warhol’s Pink Marilyn which hung in the family home when he was a child. The painting, after years out of the country, is being couriered back to New York.

Della Valle uses a series of narratives, swapping between characters’ points of view to reveal hidden corners of each story. We meet brothers John and Vincent (Rhys Meyers and Piven). John Kaplan is an art critic and soon-to-be gallery owner. His career has seen better times (dubbed “The Rock Star of Contemporary Art”, in a flashback we see him giving a TED talk). His gallery opening draws near, and debts are building, but he still supports his haphazard stuntman brother, who lurches from one job to the next.

The fate of the Kaplans and the Rubinos become intertwined, along with art historian Sarah Flores (Paz Vega), as the Pink Marilyn slips through various hands. The story zips along at breakneck speed, and while details get lost in the telling, the fate of the Warhol drives the narrative forward.

This is a film of extremes – the action is furiously paced, and the visuals are neon-lit and heady. Della Valle’s multi-narrative offers up different takes on art, including thoughts on forgery, intrinsic value and the shifting of perspective that came with the recent BLM protests. Rhys Meyers’ art critic, however, is straight out of the box: dressed in black and ennui. The film tries to be progressive, but the female characters, for instance, are either objects of desire or making the coffee. It weighs down a film that could do better.

For all its star power, American Night is a film with an identity crisis. Part-heist thriller, part-noir, part-commentary on the contemporary art world, American Night spreads itself too thinly. The tone lurches from overly-serious crime drama to broad comic swathes delivered by Piven (the best casting of the film). As a result, we are never quite sure where we are, and neither angle convinces. Hirsch’s mob villain isn’t given the character development needed to make him plausible, and this is a criticism that can be levelled at every character. When you have talent such as Rhys Meyers and Hirsch struggling to reach for a coherent performance, it’s clear that American Night needed a deep editorial cleanse.

American Night has ideas and knows what it wants to say, but gets bogged down in semantics: a lighter touch would have made American Night an intriguing prospect. As it is, the film loads its brush too heavily, and the concepts lie stiffly on the canvas.

American Night will be available on Digital Download from 7th February.

The Reviews Hub Score

Ambitious but heavy handed

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The Reviews Hub - Film

The Reviews Hub Film Team is under the editorship of Maryam Philpott.

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