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Night Falls on Manhattan
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Night Falls on Manhattan is 73-year-old director Sidney Lumet's 40th foray into the world of justice, its sense of morality and lack of it. Lumet has carved a name for himself as a talented film-maker who looks into the maintenance of morals and ethics in the police, military and courtroom with such movies as 12 Angry Men, The Verdict and Q&A.

The New York setting of his latest offering is also the 29th time his favourite city and filmic playground provides the backdrop for a Lumet movie.

The charismatic Andy Garcia stars as Sean Casey, an idealistic street cop turned Manhattan District Attorney who is thrust into the limelight after prosecuting in a high-profile, headline-grabbing case.

The film unfolds very slowly with Casey's father, Liam (Ian Holm), a veteran detective staking out an infamous druglord Jordan Washington (Shiek Mahmud-Bey) with partner Joey Allegretto (James Gandolfini). Their arrest attempt escalates into a calamitous shoot-out involving officers from three precincts.

Watch for the classic pacing and street-wise manner in which Washington literally walks out of the building without so much as a drop of blood on his white sneakers. Close to 50 NYPD officers are put to shame when in the stake-out process they shoot an ally man in blue while the druglord makes a clean getaway in a police car.

When the smoke clears, three cops lie dead and a fourth (Casey senior) lies clinging to his life in a hospital bed with tubes all over. Touching father-and-son dialogue follows with Casey calling his dad, "Nails" (something he used to do in his childhood) and father encouraging him to "Nail him, son".

The escaped Washington turns himself in to high-profile lawyer, Sam Vigoda (Richard Dreyfuss), who in reality defends him in the hope of sniffing out corrupt coppers. The crisply staged trial (adapted from Robert Daley's novel, Tainted Evidence) is the first phase of the drama.

Abrasive and politically-savvy D.A. Morgenstern (Ron Leibman) uses the rookie prosecutor to open-and-shut the case against Casey's father's assailant for a high-profile win. But then, a body turns up in the harbour and suddenly each turn Casey takes leads him to suggestions of deception, betrayal and a police corruption scandal that hits lose to home.Casey is left to do some soul-searching and the question arises that perhaps Washington was the only honest witness at the trial.

When Defence Counsel Peggy Lindstrom (Lena "Unbearable Lightness of Being" Olin) finds Casey irresistible, some spice is injected to the proceedings as this romantic involvement involves the opposition. There's a possibility Lindstrom could betray Casey...

Manhattan sure beats many recent movies when it comes to realism and pacing, depicting cramped courtrooms and disinterested attorneys. It illustrates that the law is not black and white, and presents the viewer with gray areas where you - as Casey tells one batch of attorneys - are forced to question yourself.


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