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Saturday, August 30, 2008

NOISE -- DVD review by porfle

If you're like me, you love your peace and quiet. And you hate for it to be constantly shattered by everyday noises such as jackhammers, back-up beepers, sirens, leaf blowers, cell phone yakkers, and the like. Ever wish you could do something about it?

In the 2007 comedy NOISE, David Owen (Tim Robbins), a successful businessman with a wife and daughter, is finally driven over the edge by the constant racket of New York City and goes on a one-man rampage that centers on his most hated source of unwanted noise--car alarms. After an opening titles montage of nerve-wracking city noises, the movie begins with a comical essay on how useless car alarms are, since even the police have learned to ignore them as they blare away unheeded. But David no longer ignores them as they blast him awake at night, keep his baby daughter crying at all hours, and finally even cause him to be impotent with his wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan). So, with a hammer and a pair of wire cutters, he begins to disable every car alarm he hears and vandalize the cars.

This lands David in and out of jail and puts a strain on his marriage when his wife just can't understand his sonic fanaticism. After she kicks him out, he pursues his quest in earnest as "The Rectifier", stalking the streets in shades and a hoodie and eventually gaining a measure of support from the locals. One of his victims, a beautiful young Russian woman named Ekaterina (Margarita Levieva), becomes fascinated with David and joins him in his crusade, refining his methods by helping him organize a petition to ban car alarms. (They also have an affair, of course.) But standing in their way is the crooked, abrasive Mayor Schneer (William Hurt), who has about as much regard for "The Rectifier" as J. Jonah Jameson has for Spiderman.

Writer-director Henry Bean, who based the screenplay on his own wire-snipping exploits, gives much of NOISE a casual, freewheeling visual style. Split-screens show us how certain situations might be ideally resolved (David calmly and politely handling a couple of cops) and how they actually end up (David freaking out and getting thrown in the slammer). The non-linear narrative fiddles around with the story in interesting ways as David meets Ekaterina early on and fills her in on his history in a series of flashbacks that eventually fit together like puzzle pieces.

David's anti-noise obsession and his feelings of helplessness in the face of the general public's weary acceptance of such affronts comes to represent the way people have gradually relinquished their rights over time and become willing pawns of those in power. As Robbins says in an interview segment: "We're dealing with a lot of encroachments on our peace of mind, we're dealing with it simply by accepting it." Strangely enough, Robbins the well-known liberal plays David as a Wall Street Republican type, since the moral relativism of his own political persuasion would necessitate the philosophy of "I think that's noise, but you don't--and that's okay." So, interestingly, Robbins felt the need to get into conservative mode in order to say "This is wrong, dammit, whether you think so or not."

It may not sound like much of a comedy, but there's a lot of funny stuff here. Tim Robbins is good at being the everyday guy going quietly over the edge until he can't take it anymore, expressing his rage with a sort of suppressed, indignant disbelief. And it's fun to see him bashing car windows so he can pop the hoods and snip the battery cables, or simply taking a hammer to various alarms and other noisemakers after reasonable requests for their deactivation have fallen upon deaf ears.

His friend Judson (Michael J. Burg), a reformed car thief who runs a garage, advises him on the best ways to deal with offending autos. In one of the best scenes, Judson helps him create a sort of sonic deathmobile packed to the gills with ear-splitting car alarms, which David uses to blast Mayor Schneer's vitally important meeting with some Japanese businessmen all to hell. The final courtroom sequence is fun but tends to get a tad farcical at times, and doesn't quite come off as the fist-in-the-air finale that the film needed. Nor is there a Travis Bickle-type "go for broke" ending that I halfway expected. The biggest "WTF?" moment in NOISE, perhaps, is a crude, softcore-porn scene with David, Ekaterina, and her friend Gruska (MarĂ­a Ballesteros), whose dissatisfaction with the aesthetic appearance of her genitals leads David to a philosophical epiphany that didn't really require three naked people lounging around gabbing about their junk.

With a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation and Dolby 2.0 surround, the DVD looks and sounds good, although much of that sound is, as you might guess, noise. Extras include almost forty minutes of interview segments with the cast, director, and producers, a director commentary, some behind-the-scenes footage of the courtroom sequence, and a trailer.

Silence is indeed golden, and if it weren't for the constant ringing in both my ears, I'd enjoy it as much as possible. So I could really identify with the hero of NOISE and root for him as he smashes and destroys things that make noise for noise's sake. There's even a small bit just for us cell phone haters--while David and Helen are having an emotional discussion about the state of their deteriorating marriage, her cell goes off and she instantly grabs for it, prompting David to snap, "Go ahead and get that--it's not like we're having a conversation or anything." Amen!

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