American Night – Film Review

Director: Alessio Della Valle

Writer: Alessio Della Valle

Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Emile Hirsch, Paz Vega, Jeremy Piven, and Michael Madsen

Rating: ★★★

Alessio Della Valle’s debut, American Night, is an overly ambitious and stylish crime thriller. It feels like something from the mind of Tarantino, with a non-linear plot, vibrant visuals and even an appearance from Michael Madsen. The story centres around a missing painting, and an art critic John Kaplan (Johnathan Rhys Meyers), who is trying to focus on his art gallery.

The first twenty minutes are completely engrossing, and an all-out excellent opening to a film. It’s clearly influenced by Pulp Fiction, it even starts with a scene in a diner, which ends in a robbery gone wrong that we come back to later in the film. The story then jumps about, setting everything up and introducing characters with stylish freezes showing the character name and occupation. After the first twenty or so minutes the film does slow down and focus more on backstory, and it doesn’t quite deliver the same heights that the opening promised.  

American Night is about art. Everything from the pop art of Andy Warhol, through a street performance, film, and even a song by Anastacia, that she wrote especially for the film. It’s all about highlighting the importance of art in our lives and culture, there’s even a literal lecture halfway through that John gives, and other characters discussing how art is the most valuable thing in the world. There are tons of nods towards specific art, a shop called Black Swan, an employee at the diner that looks like Kurt Cobain, while a customer wears a similar ‘New York City’ shirt that John Lennon wore. It’s a tribute to everything that’s come before it.

When the film gets violent it’s energetic and fuelled by blood splatters and screams. The final shoot-out is expertly filmed. There are also tons of visual flairs, such as a shotgun being shot into the ceiling melding into paint being thrown at a canvas. There are many original and interesting scene transitions. This may be Alessio Della Valle’s first film, but he clearly knows what he’s doing with the visuals. There’s also a great score from Marco Beltrami and Ceiri Torjussen, that’s blended with one hell of a soundtrack featuring Iron Maiden, Blondie, and The Velvet Underground.

The same can’t be said about the storytelling. There’s a lot going on, and a lot of characters to keep on top of. It’s a well-constructed mess of excess. It always looks interesting, but at points it’s borderline incoherent. With the way the story jumps all over the place, flashbacks inside flashbacks, and scenes shown multiple times with extra snippets, it’s hard to follow. It starts to get tiresome halfway through and really needed to be cut down a little more.

That’s kind of fitting, because American Night is all about excess. It may not hit every target it aims for, but you can’t help but feel its ambition and admire its style. The opening sequence alone is worth watching.  

American Night will be available on Digital Download from 7th February

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About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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