Conceptually, "Noise" might've actually become something raw and momentous. A flustered indictment of urban noise pollution and its effect on a man sensitive to all the commotion, "Noise" has the tools to reach out beyond the screen and explore universal truths on city living and urban survival. However, "Noise" is more content to be a total mess.
Trying to live in peace in New York with his wife (Bridget Moynahan) and daughter, David Owen (Tim Robbins) is instead consumed with the sounds of the city. With car alarms, sirens, and assorted noisemakers making everyday life a living hell, David finds he can't sit idly by anymore, soon embarking on a vigilante career breaking into automobiles and disabling the appropriate irritant. Branding himself "The Rectifier," David is only as successful as the law allows, and when repeated appearances in front of a judge take away his illegal upper hand, he soon takes to the street, gathering signatures for an initiative to ban the noise permanently with the help of a comely young admirer, Ekaterina (Margarita Levieva).
See? There's something pervasive and genuine about writer/director Henry Bean's idea for the film. Playing off the common dread of hearing the continuous blare of emergency, "Noise" has the narrative verve to transform into a battle cry for anyone who has ever suffered urban aural infestation. What Bean actually does with his gem of an idea is downright criminal. In his first feature film since 2001's "The Believer," Bean has found his filmmaking skill completely rusted over. "Noise" isn't just a bad movie, it's a shockingly inept one, with tedious tangents and pedestrian directorial choices forming a conga line in front of the camera for an endless 90-minute dance party of incompetence.
The confusion begins early, with Bean establishing a bizarre timeline for "Noise" than features the action leaping back and forth between a ten-year period of time. Of course, David's appearance isn't altered in the least, making matters even more mystifying and difficult to follow. Also bewildering is how the film opens as a documentary on David's vigilante ways, only to find the framing device abandoned after ten whole minutes. Bean is terrific at blowing off audience investment throughout the picture, failing to build David as a unique man with an identifiable problem. Bean would rather make fun of David, exploring his violation through ineffective sexual performance humiliations and comical interludes where the character imagines numerous resolutions during his law enforcement interactions.
Picturing himself a Jonas Salk figure, sent to battle the forces of government (embodied here by William Hurt and William Baldwin) as he tries to eradicate noise, David finds his family stripped away as he's consumed by his crusade. Enter the character of Ekaterina, and any chance of the film to form a lasting impact is thrown out of the window.
Ekaterina is the first to sniff out the truth behind David's actions, and she soon becomes his lover, encouraging the man's fight against the impossible, helping him grease the legal wheels when working above the law finds only assured prosecution. Played repellently by Levieva, Ekaterina is a fantasy figure, not a character of any possible authenticity. She cools down David with her sexuality and Russian purr, jumping right into bed with him without much of a buildup, and soon encouraging Penthouse Letter threesomes for her new man to enjoy. This film is about noise, right? Bean is hopeless, indulging in some toothless stabs at philosophy while working in dialogue centered on vaginal appreciation at one point. Suddenly the film is on planet Zorp Zorp and there's no return flight home. Ug, what the hell was Bean thinking?
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio), "Noise" appears washed-out, with colors lost to a contrasty blur, rendering the image nearly monochromatic. It's needed for the film to replicate a concrete jungle, but seems a little removed from the intent. Detail isn't acceptable and black levels are weak.
It's a film entitled "Noise," so it's only appropriate that the Dolby Digital 2.0 mix finds a wall of sound level to match the picture's madness. Certainly the audio makes a point, carefully moving in and out of the sonic penetration. Unfortunately, some of the voiceover (another random Bean touch) is lost inside the mix, making it occasionally difficult to keep up with the film's dialogue.
English subtitles are included.
So, what the hell was Bean thinking? Well, answers aren't in great supply during his feature-length audio commentary. Bean has plenty of enthusiasm for his picture, providing some philosophical discussion, thematic explanation, and a general questioning of motivation. Bean also likes to expound on the film's air of consciousness, but fails to dig in deep and discuss the film's nonsensical approach. Clearly, Bean is in his own world, and while a deeply intelligent man, he's not much of a commentator.
"Behind the Scenes: Courtroom" (7:40) is B-roll footage from the shooting of the climatic legal showdown. This type of supplement is typically viewed as worthless, but I personally love the unedited snapshots of production.
"Cast & Crew Interviews" (37:49) sits down with Henry Bean, Tim Robbins, Peter Hoffman, Gabrielle Brennan, William Baldwin, Bridget Moynahan, Maria Ballesteros, Margarita Levieva, producer Susan Hoffman, and co-producer Tony Grazia to discuss the making of the film during production.
"Promo" (2:10) is a brief spoiler reel for the film, hitting all the highlights of promotional discussion.
And a Theatrical Trailer for the film is included on this DVD.
Touches of whimsy and a lame effort to remove the film's lone question of logic (why doesn't David just move?) make "Noise" even more unbearable, amputating all tension as David launches a final campaign for auditory peace by fighting fire with fire. If there's any comfort to be cradled at the end of this confused, humorless picture, it might be this: it took Henry Bean seven years to follow-up his first movie. If there's any luck, it'll be 2015 before we have to suffer through another one.
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