How alarming: New Yorker is driven to edge

Posted: May 16, 2008

A tale of obsession and vigilantism cut with humor and a little Hegel, Henry Bean's Noise is a satisfyingly screwy New York story in which a successful businessman/family man jettisons all because he can't stand the cacophony on the street.

David Owen (Tim Robbins) has a beautiful cello-playing wife (Bridget Moynahan), a smart young daughter, and a good life on Manhattan's Upper West Side. But the jackhammers, police sirens, fire engines, garbage trucks and car alarms - especially the car alarms, blaring and blasting all night - have turned him into a jangled, angry soul.

Unable to contain his rage, David begins patrolling the streets, smashing the windows of the wailing vehicles and disengaging their horns and sirens. Soon he's got it down to an art. Cloaked in a hoodie, toting his tools, he smashes up the automobiles and leaves his calling card: The Rectifier.

The tabloids celebrate him, the mayor (William Hurt) hates him, and then a lovely Russian freelance writer (Margarita Levieva) convinces David that he can turn the volume down legally: by starting an anti-car-alarm petition drive.

Bean wrote and directed 2001's The Believer - the fierce little indie in which Ryan Gosling starred as a militantly anti-Semitic skinhead Jew. Noise has a lighter touch - and a loopy performance from Hurt, as the unctuous Mayor Schneer (Rudolph Guiliani meets Red Buttons?) - but the two films share a similarly canny perceptiveness about the line between obsession and madness, between loathing and self-loathing, between power as a destructive force and self-destruction.

In interviews, Bean has said that the character of David is based on his own experience, his own exasperation. The filmmaker was even arrested once for doing what his protagonist does. So there's a level of truth-telling here, and confession, but also fantasy: the vigilante hero whose fixation and frustration destroy a marriage, but who finds redemption in the arms of another babe. (Two babes, in fact: there's a pretty gratuitous menage a trois sequence that mixes spirited porn with philosophical discourse.)

Robbins, an actor who can fly off into vein-popping rages, is very good in Noise. His performance is modulated, even introspective. And Bean directs with a playful self-awareness, occasionally interjecting a comment, or a what-if scenario, into the narrative, breaking the storyteller's illusion, but reminding the audience that we're all in the same boat - and it's loud.

Noise *** (out of four stars)

Directed by Henry Bean. With Tim Robbins, Bridget Moynahan, William Hurt and Margarita Levieva. Distributed by ThinkFilm.

Running time: 1 hour, 33 mins.

Parent's guide: No MPAA rating (profanity, violence, sex, nudity, adult themes)

Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse

Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at

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