Manhattan Night serves up murder, sexual perversion, daddy issues, and long-buried mysteries — although it’s not nearly dark or deviant enough to register as anything more than boilerplate faux-noir.
Porter Wren (Adrien Brody) is a famous tabloid reporter who lives with his wife (Jennifer Beals) and kids in a suburban-style house that’s magically nestled just off a midtown NYC street. He gets no action at home, and Porter succumbs to the advances of beautiful Caroline (Yvonne Strahovski), who wants him to look into the death of her acclaimed filmmaker husband, Simon (Campbell Scott) — an investigation that soon ensnares him in a tangled plot involving blackmail, genital mutilation, and attacks on children. Such material should seethe with sordid vitality, but writer-director Brian DeCubellis’s film (based on Colin Harrison’s 1996 novel Manhattan Nocturne) is hopelessly flat, with its protagonist’s mechanical narration emblematic of its wannabe-hardboiled voice.
Still, despite being saddled with a hilarious monologue about how, once you have children, marital sex becomes an act that’s wrapped up in thoughts of death, Brody does his sturdiest work in years as the morally compromised Porter, and Strahovski makes for a fittingly seductive temptress with ambiguous motives.
Manhattan Night‘s pedestrian style and affected atmosphere, however, make it a routine descent into the black heart of a city and its shady inhabitants.
Written and directed by Brian DeCubellis
Opens May 20, AMC Empire 25
Available on demand