I jumped at the chance to review this movie as I am a big fan of Emile Hirsch, who I found electrifying in Nick Kassavetes’s Alpha Dog (2006). The rest of the leading cast are equally outstanding, starting with the legendary Michael Madsen, who has graced our screens with blockbusters like Thelma & Louis (1991), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Kill Bill (2003, 2004), and another favourite of mine: Donnie Brasco (1997); Johnathan Rhys Meyers (Bend it Like Beckham – 2002, Vanity Fair – 2004, Match Point – 2005); Paz Vega (Sex and Lucia – 2001, Rambo: Last Blood – 2019); and Jeremy Piven (Serendipity – 2001, Entourage – 2015).
Watch the trailer now:
Directed by Alessio Della Valle, and produced by Martha Capello, American Night is an action-packed neo-noir film that follows a stolen, priceless piece by Andy Warhol (Pink Marilyn) as it arrives in New York City with a narcoleptic courier (you’ll recognise Fortunato Cerlino if you are a fan of Gomorrah). After being given super strict instructions by a sexy Asian femme fatale, he makes a complete shambles of the transport of the painting, which gets him jammed up with a young mafia boss, passionate about fine art (Emile Hirsch). Things get heated as art dealer John Kaplan (Rhys Meyers) tries to juggle the mob and his talent as an art forger with his love for Sarah Flores (Paz Vega).
Gangster Michael Rubino (Emile Hirsch) and art dealer John Kaplan (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) fight for money, art, power and love.
Kaplan seems not to have learnt from the past, as he often has flashbacks depicting these same tough guys beating him to a pulp when some previous business went wrong. He must be really desperate to still be engaged with their enterprise. His desperate plays and shady entanglements with these violent crooks, along with a reckless drunken affair, ruin the relationship with the one true love of his life, also a professional in the art scene.
As well as these tensions, we are also entertained with female assassins, Chinese triad warfare, and a hint of comedy in a superbly written screenplay that will have you completely gripped from the start to a Scarface-like mansion shoot out to climax, and finally, a cheeky twist at the very end, which I’m sure many will be unable to guess, try as you may.
Slightly reminiscing of Pulp Fiction, American Night looks good and successfully engages the audience.
The makers of American Night clearly wink at American Pop Art after Andy Warhol and Tarantino (I think there is a bit of a homage to Pulp Fiction here). Their appetite for nostalgia is even clearer when villain Rubino (Emile Hirsch) relates the old “scorpion and frog” tale, which some might remember from Orson Welles’s Mr Arkadin (1955). In fact, at some point in the movie, Rubino shaves off his hair and reveals a scorpion tattoo.
There are several more pop culture touchstones in the movie, which although somehow enjoyable, may feel a little bit over the top and on occasion risk rendering the whole film slightly too rich in clichés, maybe even a touch dogmatic. However, overall, I did enjoy the movie very much. It is smart, stylish and sexy.
American Night is available now on Digital Download from iTunes, Apple TV, Google, Microsoft, Virgin Media, Rakuten, Sky and Chili.
Words: Papa-Sono Abebrese