AFI Fest

Henry Bean wrote the excellent Richard Gere thriller "Internal Affairs," and made his directorial debut with a 2001 Sundance Film Festival prize-winner "The Believer" that put Ryan Gosling on the map in the role of a self-hating Jew who becomes a neo-Nazi.

But Bean has been inactive in recent years, except for a writing stint on "Basic Instinct 2" that he might prefer to forget. So expectations were high for his sophomore helming effort, "Noise," which had its premiere at the AFI Fest and which will be released next year by ThinkFilm. But despite its intriguing premise, the movie is a disappointing misfire.

David (Tim Robbins) is a New York lawyer obsessed with urban noise in general and obstreperous car alarms in particular. Instead of allowing his sleep, his sex life, and his general tranquility to be interrupted, he decides to take action against the offending vehicles with hammers, golf clubs and other available weapons. His behavior lands him in repeated trouble with the law and also wreaks havoc with his marriage to a musician (the lovely Bridget Moynahan).

While it's easy to identify with David's frustration and rage, the film keeps an ironic distance from its protagonist, allowing us to see him alternately as a put-upon hero and as a loon who is as much of an irritant as the thoughtless drivers he attacks. Vigilante movies are becoming more prevalent as the perils of urban living mount, but "Noise" is one of the few to take a comic view of the subject. While this approach yields a few droll moments, Bean's script ultimately is too mild to have much impact. The performances don't maximize the comic potential, either. Robbins fails to bring the requisite intensity to the role; he's too aware that the movie is a daffy satire, and he keeps winking at the audience. The same phenomenon of an actor standing outside his role undermines William Hurt's exaggerated performance as David's nemesis, New York's self-satisfied Mayor Schneer. Even granting that a lot of contemporary politicians are a long way from being Mensa members, Hurt comes off as such a buffoon that it would be hard to imagine him being elected dog catcher.

The women fare better. Moynahan is thoroughly convincing as David's beleaguered wife, and Margarita Levieva is warmly appealing as the Russian woman who takes David in when Moynahan kicks him out. However, a sex scene in which David and his new love invite another woman for a threesome seems utterly pointless.

Bean pulls off a couple of clever split-screen episodes imagining alternate ways in which David might react to a tense confrontation. But the look of the film is drab, and the music by Phillip Johnston punctuates the action a little too obviously. Bean doesn't demonstrate the same flair for comedy that he's shown in more dramatic work, so "Noise" seems like a strained novelty item without much boxoffice potential.

Seven Arts, Fuller Film Prods.
Screenwriter-director: Henry Bean
Producers: Susan Hoffman, Henry Bean
Executive producers: Daniel Diamond, Paul de Souza
Director of photography: Andrij Parekh
Production designer: Kelly McGehee
Music: Phillip Johnston
Costume designer: Alex Alvarez
Editors: Lee Percy, Julie Carr
David Owen: Tim Robbins
Helen Owen: Bridget Moynahan
Mayor Schneer: William Hurt
Chief of Staff: William Baldwin
Ekaterina Filippovna: Margarita Levieva
Chris Owen: Gabrielle Brennan
Gruska: Maria Ballesteros
Running time -- 90 minutes
No MPAA rating