Night Falls on Manhattan

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Synopsis

IN A CITY OF NINE MILLION PEOPLE, IS THERE ROOM FOR ONE HONEST MAN?

In a career that includes Oscar-nominated masterpieces such as Serpico, Prince of the City and The Verdict, director Sidney Lumet has cross-examined the fine line between those who enforce the law and those who exploit it, both in the courtroom and on the streets. Adapting a novel by former NYPD officer Robert Daley (Year of the Dragon), Lumet once again exposes the corrupt underbelly of the city that never sleeps in Night Falls on Manhattan.

Sean Casey (Andy Garcia) is an assistant district attorney and a rising star in the New York City legal system. He is forced into a tough position when his ambitious boss, seeking re-election, asks Sean to prosecute a drug dealer caught by two NYPD detectives under controversial circumstances - one of whom happens to be Sean's father (Ian Holm). As Sean gets closer to the truth in the case, what he uncovers may break his faith in the legal system, threaten his promising career and tear his family apart.

Boasting a powerhouse supporting cast including Lena Olin, Richard Dreyfuss and James Gandolfini, this underrated entry in Lumet's canon of crime classics can be freshly reappraised with a new restoration and illuminating bonus features.

Picture 8/10

Arrow Video presents Sidney Lumet’s Night Falls on Manhattan in a ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc with a 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation.

I would have expected Arrow to reuse an older high-definition master for the film, but they’ve gone a step further and performed a new 2K restoration, and the effort was well worth it. The film looks great, clean, and sharp, with a terrific film-like texture. The details are good if not great, but the grain is cleanly rendered. For the most part anyways; the encode falters a bit with tighter patterns, some blinds and such showing a mild shimmer, but it’s solid otherwise.

The thorough restoration work has led to a near-spotless appearance with only a few minor marks remaining. It's an impressive presentation that did manage to surpass my expectations.

Audio 8/10

Arrow includes a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround soundtrack alongside a PCM 2.0 stereo one. I only listened to the 5.1 soundtrack. It’s not a film that’s looking to show off. It’s “talky” with a moody, low-key jazz score primarily targeted at the front speakers with some direction toward the rears. There is a shoot-out early on that shows more activity and range, but that’s about it.

Quality is excellent, though, with clear, easy-to-hear dialogue and no signs of damage or distortion.

Extras 7/10

Though Arrow has gone out of their way to create a new restoration they disappointingly don’t add anything new in this department, primarily recycling Paramount’s DVD features. That includes two audio commentaries recorded in 1998, one featuring director Lumet, the other featuring actors Andy Garcia and Ron Leibman alongside producers Thom Mount and Josh Kramer. Both are fine, though I think I preferred the group track. Kramer and Mount share a little about the production’s background, but Garcia and Leibman take the lead. The two focus primarily on the film's performances, not just their own. Throughout, they’ll talk about their co-stars and what they bring to their roles, praising everyone from veterans like Ian Holm and Colm Feore to this new guy named James Gandolfini (whom they were both particularly struck by).

Lumet’s is more technical, with the director talking about using real New York locations and setting up some of the more complicated sequences, like the tenement shoot-out. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get into adapting the source novel outside of some comments here and there and doesn’t dig too much into the story and what interested him in it (outside of police corruption). To be fair, he isn’t the type of filmmaker interested in explaining motivations and such, even mentioning that in the track. Still, his best comments usually concern technical difficulties and how he got around them. For example, he explains how his experience filming a real sauna for The Anderson Tapes influenced how he would film a sauna scene here and then hands out tips like how one can go about hiding the actors’ breath when shooting in the cold (and it’s not supposed to be that cold in the scene).

Arrow then includes another 60-minute episode of the early 2000’s series The Directors, focusing on Lumet. Through interviews with the director and actors who have worked with him (including but not limited to Garcia, Leibman, Jack Lemmon, Jacqueline Bisset, Christopher Walken, and more), the segment explores his work, stopping to focus on his key films, like 12 Angry Men, The Pawnbroker, The Hill, Fail-Safe, Network, Dog Day Afternoon and more. However, it does skip through what I guess would be considered his lesser-known films. Somewhat amusingly, they spend a lot of time on his 90’s films but almost entirely skip over Guilty as Sin. Despite the very dated aspects of its production, I do like these episodes and appreciate Arrow including them where they can.

The rest of the material all feels to be raw footage created for promotional materials, including on-set interviews with Lumet (admitting he didn't do a good job writing Olin's character) and actors Garcia, Leibman, Lena Olin, Ian Holm (who is puzzled as to why he was cast as a New York cop), and Richard Dreyfuss. There are also 12 minutes of raw behind-the-scenes footage showing Lumet at work, and finally, the film’s trailer (half of which works to remind viewers of Lumet’s past films instead of focusing on his latest) and three TV spots. There is also a booklet, but I do not have it at the moment.

All in, it's a fine enough collection of material, but I'm still a little surprised Arrow didn't gather together any new material for their release.

Closing

The release mostly recycles Paramount's features, but the new presentation looks outstanding.

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Directed by: Sidney Lumet
Year: 1996
Time: 113 min.
 
Series: Arrow Video
Licensor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Release Date: May 07 2024
MSRP: $39.95
 
Blu-ray
1 Disc | BD-50
1.85:1 ratio
English 2.0 PCM Stereo
English 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Region A
 
 Archive commentary by director Sidney Lumet   Archive commentary by actors Andy Garcia and Ron Leibman, with producers Josh Kramer and Thom Mount   The Directors: Sidney Lumet, an hour-long archive documentary from 2002 featuring interviews with Lumet, Garcia, Leibman, Jack Lemmon, Rod Steiger, Christopher Walken and others   On-set interviews with Lumet, Garcia, Dreyfuss, Olin, Holm and Leibman   Behind-the-scenes footage   Theatrical Trailer   TV Spots   Illustrated collectors' booklet featuring new writing on the film by Nick Clement and original production notes