Art and life collide in this stylish and wildly entertaining neo-noir thriller. When a highly coveted Andy Warhol painting suddenly surfaces, it triggers a chain reaction of danger-filled events for a colorful group of characters including: a forger turned art dealer (Jonathan Rhys Meyers); a mobster and painter (Emile Hirsch) with a penchant for scorpions; a seductive museum conservator (Paz Vega); and a stuntman and wannabe ninja (Jeremy Piven). Filled with daring double-crosses and surprising twists and turns, the race for the painting comes to an explosive conclusion…one American Night.
Playing like a graphic novel, with characters’ names scrawled next to their introduction, the gunfire is chaotic and aplenty. I watched this a 2-hour film a second time to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I think I still am. Even after my second viewing, American Night remains confusing in its non-linear storytelling. Listen, I wanted to love this film. The potential is there.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers does his best to make American Night engaging. His character, John, attempts to make amends in love and begin an honest career. He’s strong as ever, in true neo-noir fashion. Though try as he might, he cannot hold up an uneven narrative that relies on cliché over concept. Jeremy Piven steals the show. The seriousness in which his character desires to be a ninja becomes the much-needed levity in all these convoluted shenanigans. I would happily watch an entire film about him. Emile Hirsch is the son of a New York City Mafia boss Michael Rubino, whose love of art plays above all else. That, and perhaps, his ego and an incredibly random love for scorpions. The performance goes from levelheaded to absurd based on the script. Hirsch takes it all in strive with 100% commitment.
Here’s what doesn’t work for me; it takes 1 hour and 25 minutes for the stories to finally overlap after living them from different perspectives. The runtime would benefit from a 20-minute shave. Some of the delivery from ancillary characters reads as hokey. Okay, a lot of the dialogue does. The film includes one of the most ridiculous sex scenes ever. It seems like a laughable excuse to have Paz Vega appear naked onscreen.
Here’s what’s great; the framing of scenes, the use of neon, and the main cast. The final reveal occurs 5 seconds before the credits. Oh, the credits. If the visual continuity of the rest of the film was as snappy as this, American Night would have made a slicker impact. This is the pop art-inspired, cool factor that could have punched up the film into cult status. It’s got a real Pulp Fiction energy, but a lot has to be done for this to be a cinematic work of art.
In Theaters, on VOD, and Digital October 1, 2021
Directed by: Alessio Della Valle
Written by: Alessio Della Valle
Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Emile Hirsch, Jeremy Piven, Paz Vega, Michael Madsen
Run Time: 123 minutes
Genre: Thriller, Action