Tim Robbins makes just about anything better than it would have been without him.

Noise is a bit of an odd movie. They seemed to be selling it as a quirky superhero movie wherein The Rectifier (Tim Robbins’s assumed identity) would go around fucking up noisy cars and stuff with a singular dedication probably brought on by late Asperger’s. Of course, this element is present in the movie but it also has some bizarre departures from anything resembling a typical formula. I’m not sure if this works or not, but let’s talk about it in more detail.

For one thing, the movie is definitely a bit tongue-in-cheek about it’s “issue movie” trappings. The central idea is that David Owen (Robbins’s character’s slave name) has this notion that the aggressive noises suffered by people in big cities like NYC as a matter of course are actually a form of assault. The focus is on car alarms since, statistically, they are not very helpful and tend to malfunction. They are also some of the worst, most aggressively noisy things produced by human beings. Anyway, no one understands David’s obsession with this and he frequently causes himself grief by taking matters into his own hands. Then he becomes The Rectifier for about as long as it takes for his wife (omfg Bridget Moynhan!) to separate from him and a plucky wannabe reporter (the beautiful if sleepy-eyed Margarita Levieva) to discover his secret identity and try to get him to take a more political route to settling David’s war with the city.

Which is weird, because then the movie becomes about their unusual sexual relationship for a while, seemingly implying that David’s issue is more about having a mid-life crisis than it is about noise. This is even weirder, in terms of Noise as a character study, since David seems to be a good husband and father when he isn’t driven to distraction by LOUD NOISES. The movie feels a bit more realistic than your average Hollywood melodrama and presents a somewhat more mature and unfettered position on the ups and downs of relationships. I did not look for these elements in the film, but they make it more than just a quirky issue movie with pretensions into a full-fledged character study with some significant drama thrown in.

The humor in the film works, for the most part. Especially when William Hurt and Stephen Baldwin are allowed to play off each other. Here they are the hilariously named Mayor Schneer and his political aide.  Something about their slimy politico bullshit feels like it belongs in a Mike Judge movie. In any event, they’re the kind of subtle characters that make you chuckle. And to the extent that it’s funny, Noise is a movie of wry chuckles as opposed to belly laughs. Of course, the odd moment might make you lose it like I did when the car thief character confides to David that far-off alarms are hauntingly beautiful, “kinda plaintive…” he says. I don’t know why I found that so funny but I did.

Writer-Director Henry Bean seems like he wants to say a lot of things about politicians, NYC, marriage and affairs, noise pollution, etc but he doesn’t really have enough bite or focus in this movie to tackle all these subjects. I can say that Noise is very much a city mouse kind of movie and the tapestry it haphazardly weaves is one that is far more relatable to someone who lives in city, especially a big one, than someone who doesn’t. That said, if you fucking hate cities you’ll probably like this movie since the way in which it is a bit of a love-letter to NYC is something I’m not sure that Bean even intended. More likely it just comes out of the inherent majesty of NYC itself.

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