I watched Noise last week. I was assigned to review it. I was excited, because it came from writer-director Henry Bean. Bean made The Believer in 2001, an intriguing movie about a neo-Nazi starring Ryan Gosling a few years back. But alas, I should have looked closer. Bean also wrote Basic Instinct 2.

Sure enough, Noise is awful. The more I watched, the more I was frightened by what happened to me. While the central character slowly descended into madness and rage, so I too descended into madness and rage… not at the urban chaos that enraged our “hero,” but at the movie itself. Before long, I was ranting like a madman in need of serious therapy. That is to say… like Bill O’Reilly on any typical show. And I’m not proud of that.

Noise is about a New Yorker named David Owen who becomes so fed up with the city’s ever-ringing car alarms that he turns into a windshield-bashing vigilante. And we’re supposed to sympathize with Owen. Sure, who doesn’t get annoyed by useless car alarms that blare on and on without ceasing?

But Owen is such a jerk about it that he quickly becomes annoying. His reaction makes us long for the sweet music of a parking lot full of car alarms. Against the filmmaker’s best efforts, it’s Owen’s wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan) who becomes sympathetic. She’s worried about his phobia, and rightfully so. But then the story quickly makes a creep of Helen too, perhaps as a way of deterring us from rooting for Owen’s demise.

To make things even more maddening, some sexy young gallery clerk (Margarita Levieva) decides that Owen, who looks old enough to be her grandfather, is sexy. (Robbins was born in 1958. Levieva was born in 1985.) So she spends the movie seducing him with her eyes and her voice. When I realized that the movie was actually going to draw the two of them into an affair, I laughed in disbelief. It gets worse. She lures him into a threesome with her and her girlfriend… and this married man and father of a beautiful girl merrily plays along.

(Oh, I should mention that the wife starts having an affair because of her husband’s alarm-phobia, thus giving us viewers permission to enjoy the threesome. Or something.) No, I am not making this up.

I fully anticipate the DVD to arrive as an “Unrated Version: With Explicit Footage Never Shown in Theaters.”

Meanwhile, the Mayor of New York (William Hurt) becomes so obsessed with finding the identity of this headlight-smashing vigilante that he seems to forget about the fact that he has better things to worry about (and so do we). He seems to go increasingly insane, and you would too, if you had an assistant as annoying as William Baldwin is here. I didn’t realize that William Baldwin could be more unpleasant onscreen than his brother Stephen. Here’s proof. When the inevitable, climactic showdown between Owen and the Mayor arrives, it’s even more ridiculous than you might expect.

Near the end, the film lets slip a complaint that may, in fact, reveal this movie’s real reason for being. A few snippy comments suggest that Noise might actually be intended as some kind of revenge letter against Mayor Giuliani for some political maneuvering he did a few years back. Good grief. And after all of the crime, the jail time, and kinky sex, David Owen goes back to his wife and kid and lives happily ever after? Yeah. That would happen.

Ultimately, Noise looks like a piece of petulant payback… sneering, unstable, cynical, and indulgent. Preposterously bad. Worst thing Tim Robbins has ever done. Most embarrassing role of William Hurt’s career. Most embarrassing haircut of William Hurt’s career. Most implausible romance I’ve seen in a decade.

The soundtrack (which is full of alarms and sirens, naturally) is overbearing. The cinematography is dull. The comedy isn’t funny.

It’s such a groaner, I begged my editor to release me from the assignment. Even a bad review was better press than Noise deserved. But here I am, still ranting about it. You see, I have so little time to enjoy movies these days. So when a feature robs me of two hours like this one did, I get irritated.

Here’s a review that begins to approximate my frustrations with it, and still I think Uhlich is being far too kind. I don’t think I’ve ever been so thunderstruck by David Denby, whose enthusiasm is hard to understand until you discover, at the conclusion of his review, that he has a crush on the lead actress. Denby was born in the ’40s, I think.

Before this year, I’ve never actually had to apologize to friends I invited to see a film with me. This year, that’s happened twice: Run, Fat Boy, Run, and Noise. Friends, I apologize that my invitation caused you to suffer through such drivel. And readers, I’m sorry you have to witness me so grouchy about a movie. I had to file my complaint somewhere.

Here’s Ross Douthat on the continuing superiority of filming “the real thing” rather than resorting to CGI.


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