ⓘ Night and the City (1992 film)

Night and the City (1992 film)

ⓘ Night and the City (1992 film)

Night and the City is a 1992 American neo-noir crime drama film and a remake of the 1950 film noir of the same name, itself an adaptation of Gerald Kershs 1938 novel. The film stars Robert De Niro and Jessica Lange and is directed by Irwin Winkler from a script by Richard Price.


1. Plot

Harry Fabian De Niro is a fast-talking, two-bit New York lawyer who hangs out at a bar called Boxers, owned by Phil Gorman and his wife Helen Lange. Harry has been having an affair with Helen, who dreams of setting up her own bar and leaving Phil. At the bar, he spots an article in the New York Post about a man who was pummeled by a boxer. He calls the man on Phils phone and pitches a lawsuit against the boxer on the grounds that his fists are legally considered weapons. The fighter is promoted by Ira "Boom Boom" Grossman King, who tries to muscle Harry off the idea of suing his boxer. The case is promptly dismissed by the judge, who knows that it is baseless.

Having seen the world of boxing up close, Harry decides to become a boxing promoter and files for a license. He recruits Boom Booms estranged brother, former professional prizefighter Al Grossman Warden, to be his partner. Boom tries to muscle Harry out of the fight business, but when Al protects Harry, Boom cowers in fear.

Al asks Phil for a $15.000 loan to cover the cost of the fight. Sensing her opportunity, Helen stages an argument with Harry and demands that he come up with $7.500, promising that Phil will match the amount. Helen fronts Harry the $7.500 herself, allowing Harry to secure the loan. Phil promises that he will pay Harry the money the day before the fight. She gives him another $5.000 to help her set up her own bar by procuring a liquor license. Harry has a friend in the Federal Liquor Administration who supplies him a blank license but asks $7500 for it; because Harry only has $5000, he has to have a printer put in the printed details, making the license essentially a fake. he gives Helen the licence but doesnt tell her all the details of how he got it.

Boom tries one last time to persuade Harry to abandon the idea, offering him money to walk away from the fight business. Harry explains that he has spent his career in pursuit of quick and easy cases that can be settled for small cash amounts. He tells Boom that he had a case once where the NYPD had mistakenly beaten up some people because they served a warrant on the wrong house. Instead of taking them to trial, he accepted the NYPDs offer of $20.000 to make the case go away. He insists that, for once, he is not going to take the money and run. Boom threatens to kill Harry if anything happens to Al, who has already had two heart attacks.

After a nasty fight at Boxers, Helen finally leaves Phil.

Still set on keeping Harry out of promoting, Boom meets with Phil and reveals that Helen has been sleeping with Harry. Enraged, Phil calls the state liquor authority to inform them that Harry had forged Helens license. He pretends like everything is fine with Harry, and offers to throw a dinner party the night before the fight. After the party, he tells Harry that he will have the $7.500 the next day, which is the morning of the fight.

Helen wakes up Harry at his place, and they talk about their new endeavors. Her new bar is opening the night of his fight. Harry goes to Boxers and anxiously waits for Phil. When Phil arrives, Harry asks him for the money. Phil says he thought Harry was joking, and then he reveals that he knows about his affair with Helen, as he beats up Harry. Desperate to keep the fight afloat, Harry borrows $12.000 from the ruthless loan shark Mr. Peck Wallach. At the venue, Al gets into a fight with one of the staff and has a fatal heart attack. With the fight off, Harry goes to Helens new bar only to find that it has been shut down because of his forged license.

Boom Booms goons show up to make good on his threat. Harry and Helen run and end up cornered in an alley. Harry tries to talk his way out of what is coming by explaining that the goons should be after the guy who fought with Al and caused his heart attack. He throws Pecks $12.000 in the air as the final exclamation point on his speech and walks Helen past the goons, asking her under his breath, "Howd I do?" The goons shoot Harry in the back and throw their pistols in a dumpster.

The film ends with Helen holding Harrys hand as he is put in an ambulance, still talking optimistically about the future.


2. Cast

  • Robert De Niro as Harry Fabian
  • Jessica Lange as Helen
  • Regis Philbin as Himself
  • Cliff Gorman as Phil
  • Eli Wallach as Peck
  • Jack Warden as Al Grossman
  • Barry Primus as Tommy
  • Alan King as Boom Grossman
  • Henry Milligan as Cotton

3. Production

The source novel and the original film featured pro wrestling, which was by the early 1990s targeted mostly at children, instead of boxing. Like the earlier 1950 film noir, the film was released by 20th Century Fox. It was chosen as the closing feature for the 1992 New York Film Festival.


4. Critical reception

Janet Maslin felt that the film "is colorfully acted and refreshingly free of all the moody cliches such a story might be expected to thrive on. But it is also saddled with overly busy direction that sometimes interferes with the dialogue, making Mr. Prices long, perversely elegant conversational riffs hard to hear." Writing for The Washington Post, Desson Howe began his review, "There are few finer pleasures than watching Robert De Niro when hes on. In "Night and the City," he lights up the board as Harry Fabian, New York Citys biggest shyster." Howe concludes De Niros performance is one of his best.

Roger Ebert disagreed, dismissing De Niros work as "more like a riff on Rupert Pupkin, the goofy talk show fan he played in Scorseses The King of Comedy ". Ebert and Howe both agreed, however, that Alan Kings performance was fantastic. Owen Gleiberman concurred in his review, but he sided with Ebert regarding De Niro, concluding, "the actor who once seemed the heir to Brando, Clift, and, yes, Widmark - the actor who once got so far inside his roles that he just about detonated the screen - now plays characters who dont seem to have any inner life at all." David Ansen praised the actors in his review: "De Niro is a sensationally manic-and even touching-sleaze; King, Warden and Gorman are splendidly disreputable, and Lange gives her role a tough/tender sexuality thats a pleasure to watch even when her characters loyalty to Harry confounds sense".

As of April 2019, Night and the City holds a rating of 57% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 14 reviews.