Like NETWORK's Howard Beale and FALLING DOWN's William "D-Fens" Foster, David Owens, the hero of screenwriter Henry Bean's follow-up to his acclaimed directorial debut, THE BELIEVER (2001), is an angry white men who's mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. In David's case, "it" is the ceaseless blare of that most insidious of useless noise polluters: car alarms.
As tales of the "Rectifier," an anonymous urban crusader who's been silencing alarms all over New York City by breaking into cars and cutting the battery lines, continue to flood the local news, seemingly mild-mannered lawyer David Owens (Tim Robbins) is confronted in a Manhattan coffee shop by Ekaterina Filippovna (Margarita Levieva). Pretty Russian emigre Ekaterina, whose uncle's storefront window and faulty alarm system became a target of the Rectifier's wrath, tells David she knows he's really the Rectifier. Following his initial denial, David relates the strange story of his transformation from white-collar geek to midnight vigilante. Not long before, David was a successful lawyer living on New York's tony Upper West Side with his cellist wife, Helen (Bridget Moynahan), and their young daughter, Chris (Gabrielle Brennan). David loves the city, but finds his peace of mind increasingly upset by the sound of car alarms, pointless noisemakers that everyone else, including the police, has learned to ignore. City law requires car alarms to shut themselves off after three minutes, but three minutes can be a very long time if, like David, you're trying to put your daughter to sleep, coax a reluctant erection into performance mode or muddle through a knotty passage from Hegel. As David's anger and anxiety grow, Helen suggests that he try stuffing his ears with earplugs, shutting the windows or simply learning to live with the noise. But that, David argues, is the other half of the problem: Everyone hates car alarms but no one does anything about them. Unbeknownst to Helen, David begins vandalizing offending vehicles, first by letting the air out of the tires, then by slashing them before graduating to tearing wiper blades from windshields. Then one night, he take a hammer to the window of a wailing red Volkswagen, pops the hood and cuts the battery cable; even through he's arrested, the satisfaction David feels convinces him of the righteousness of his crusade. Helen, meanwhile believes he's having a nervous breakdown. After serving 30 days for smashing the window of a loud, gold Lexus, David returns home to a set of packed bags and news of Helen's affair with the father of one of Chris's little friends. David finds a place down in Chelsea, a much louder part of town where buzzing intercoms, back-up beepers, car alarms (of course) and burglar sirens only fuel his newfound mission. David Owen wants nothing less than to trade the beastly noise of our fallen world for the silence of the heavens. It's a nice dream, and Ekaterina shows him another way of making a real difference: Taking his fight all the way to City Hall and New York's unctuous Mayor Schneer (William Hurt).
It's easy to imagine writer-director Bean concocting this tale while lying awake at night, furiously enduring the sound of a wailing car alarm, a rattling manhole cover or a motorcycle roaring down his street. Bean fills in some empty spaces with heady thoughts about the nature of power and beauty, but the movie's real appeal lies in the simple but by no means inconsiderable pleasure of watching Tim Robbins take a hammer to a parked car as it wails pointlessly, deep into the night.
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- Released: 2008
- Rating: NR
- Review: Like NETWORK's Howard Beale and FALLING DOWN's William "D-Fens" Foster, David Owens, the hero of screenwriter Henry Bean's follow-up to his acclaimed directorial debut, THE BELIEVER (2001), is an angry white men who's mad as hell and not going to take it a… (more)