The original 1950 British film noir was directed by American Jules Dassin and set in London. It starred Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney and was based on the novel of the same name by Gerald Kersh. It was Dassin’s first film after being blacklisted in Hollywood for alleged Communist sympathy’s.
The 1992 version of Night and the City updates the story to contempory Manhattan and substitutes boxing for the sport of pro-wrestling, but still follows the lines of Kersh’s novel. Harry Fabian (Robert De Niro) is a motor mouth shyster lawyer, an ambulance chaser in search of clients and the quick buck, a shallow man with too much to say. Some one who can’t really pull their life together, if things can go wrong they will for Harry Fabian. When Fabian is humiliated in court by big time boxing promoter Ira ‘Boom Boom’ Grossman (Alan King) he decides to extract revenge by setting up a rival boxing promotion. But as he learns to his cost ‘Boom Boom’ is not the man to go against even when you have his ex boxing champion brother Al (Jack Warden), who despises his sibling, on your side. To finance his big ambition he turns to his married mistress Helen Nasseros (Jessica Lange) and her bar owning husband Phil (Cliff Gorman) for help.
This film is a good example of why De Niro was regarded as one of the best actors of his day. Although Richard Price’s screenplay can be a little hard to understand at times, De Niro’s machine gun chatter puts it right up there in your face. The actor plays him as a sort of older version of Johnny Boy in Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1973), other character are well covered by an array of supporting cast members. There is some great incidental music and Tak Fujimoto’s cinematography adds superbly to the sleaziness of the New York locations.