Shot in stark 16mm black-and-white, RHYTHM THIEF sardonically follows the neo-noir fate of Simon (Jason Andrews), an urban loner who surreptitiously tape-records rock concerts and sells the cassettes on the sidewalks of New York's Lower East Side.
Not surprisingly, Simon is beaten up and receives death threats from an all-girl punk band (led by Cynthia Sley, of the Bush Tetras, billed in the credits as herself), who stalk Simon through alleys and into his bleak tenement. Simon has slightly gentler relations with two other women, hostile
"Ludlow Street chick" Cyd (Kimberly Flynn), who bursts in for quick, angry bouts of purgative sex, and waiflike Marty (Eddie Daniels), an outpatient from the same mental ward where Simon's mother is institutionalized.
Marty now brings word that his mother, a onetime greeting-card writer, is dead (she still has the old lady's verses transcribed on her bare arms) and tries to love Simon, putting his practiced alienation to the test. Fleeing Sley, the pair wind up in a beachside idyll at Far Rockaway, but Simon,
sensing his number is up, goes back to the Lower East Side to put his affairs, such as they are, in order. Even for fatalist Simon, the city serves up a cruel and sudden end; he is killed not by resentful rockers but a maniac neighbor who falsely blames him for stealing appliances.
RHYTHM THIEF is weakest when it gropes to explain Simon's malaise in vaguely Freudian terms and strongest when it shuts up and shows things, which is fortunately most of the time. Howard Krupa's high-contrast cinematography paints the sun-bleached concrete slabs and Stygian shadows of midsummer
Manhattan with a tactile quality, sharply complementing the pitch and pulse of Matthew Harrison's edgy direction. Persistent gallows humor and the sweet nature of Daniels's character offset the downbeat tale's heavy cynicism. Andrews ably discerns between nonacting and not reacting for his
poker-faced antihero. Though publicity for RHYTHM THIEF emphasized its $11,000 cost and 11-day shooting schedule, the film seems less a rush job and more a work of seasoned confidence by Harrison, a native New Yorker who began shooting short films in rough parts of town while still a kid and made
his feature debut in 1993 with a "bowling noir" called SPARE ME. One critic compared RHYTHM THIEF to Godard's BREATHLESS, though it has more in common with Susan Siedelman's SMITHEREENS, a similarly low-budget look at the downward spiral of a fringe character on the Big Apple punk scene.
(Violence, sex, nudity, adult situations, substance abuse, profanity.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: NR
- Review: Shot in stark 16mm black-and-white, RHYTHM THIEF sardonically follows the neo-noir fate of Simon (Jason Andrews), an urban loner who surreptitiously tape-records rock concerts and sells the cassettes on the sidewalks of New York's Lower East Side. Not sur… (more)