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Tim Robbins gives an inspired performance in this quirky social satire, but overall Noise has a tough time holding your attention.


New York lawyer David Owen (Tim Robbins) is going nuts. The noise of the big city is putting him over the edge, especially when it comes to car alarms. His wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan) and little girl (Gabrielle Brennan) are not quite sure what to make of his growing obsession with stopping the invasive noise, but at first they indulge him. But as David's anger escalates and he begins to vandalize the shrieking cars--and get arrested in the process--he loses both his family and his job. Even that doesn't stop him. He turns into "The Rectifier," a vigilante noise-abatement specialist, who wields a hammer, baseball bat, and battery-wire cutters, smashing cars all over town. And he becomes a city hero, too, much to the annoyance of the foul-mouthed mayor (William Hurt) and his overeager chief of staff (William Baldwin). David even finds a partner in crime (and in his bed) Ekaterina (Margarita Levieva), a beautiful young woman who offers up a more legal way to accomplish his goal of silencing the screeching autos.


Robbins gives a completely believable performance as David, a man at the end of his Noise rope. With his sad-sack face and towering body, Robbins is the perfect picture of a New Yorker whose life has somehow spiraled out of his control. The only part of the scenario that is hard to believe is his ability to get gorgeous women to sleep with him; his central relationship with his wife (the as-always emotionless Bridget Moynahan, who has a film career based solely on her beauty) is completely unbelievable, and jars with the rest of the movie. More real is David's slightly twisted relationship with Russian beauty Margarita Levieva as Ekaterina--at least it is conceivable that she is fascinated with his larger-than-life vigilante persona. Plus, Levieva gives a lively, fun performance that elevates every scene she is in. William Hurt and William Baldwin do a sort of Laurel and Hardy routine, as the silly mayor and his right-hand man, which is interesting to watch but sadly, not very funny. And what is up with Hurt's dyed red hair? That's just weird.


Noise's writer/director Henry Bean uses a variety of film techniques, including split screens, time-shifting--even superimposing the text of a Hegel philosophical tract on the screen--creating visual interest in what is otherwise an often static story. But while the basic plot revolving around one man's obsession with ridding the city of noise is an interesting one, the journey of the film is a slowly paced and talky slog. It isn't a good sign when one of the best moments of the whole movie comes as the credits roll, as Bean's protagonist gleefully smashes the crap out of two cars with a baseball bat. Otherwise the movie is mostly about conversation, as characters discuss ad nauseam the affect that noise has on humanity's collective psyche. The result is a film that fails to ignite our imagination or hold our interest.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 stars.