Finn (Raymond Turturro), drives around in an old car at night with a portable record player in the back seat pumping out a variety of tunes to help him make it through the night. Why is he out driving around every night? Because he’s a burned out pizza delivery guy delivering pizzas in a city that seems as burned out as he is.
Every once in a while though, even into the most boring of lives, some excitement can interject itself unexpectedly. Such was the case when Finn met a girl names Ally (Ashleigh Holeman) sitting in the hallway of an apartment building smoking a cigarette when he delivered his first pizza of the evening.
A little small talk ensued, and she ended up asking him for a ride to her friend’s place. If he had said no, he’d have missed out on the craziest night of his life. She, however, is unbelievably cute with a smile that could light up the darkest room, and since he is a guy, how could he possibly say no? The problem is, was the girlfriend of this local thug, and he’s pissed that she ran out on him. So pissed in fact, that he sends his boys out to track her down, bring her back and to do a way with the delivery guy she ran off with. What follows is a crazy night full of crazier people and a whole lot of mayhem that brings the two of them them closer together and teaches Finn that life doesn’t have to be so insanely boring after all.
Cordoba Nights is one of those films where, when you watch it, you don’t really have a lot of reaction to it. There are a few "wow" moments, but mostly it’s like watching a scene out of someone else’s life. You just kind of stare at it in a semi-interested way, not really reacting to much that’s going on, yet taking it all in as you find yourself unable to look away.
Oddly enough, it’s the understated acting that is both this movie’s strong point and it’s weak point, which is a situation I can’t really remember seeing in very many films. In general, the acting in this film is very dry, with the exception of the girl Ally, the unbelievably cute girl with a smile so amazing it could bring joy to your darkest mood. She tends to be more animated than the rest of the cast and brings just enough energy and charisma to the story to make it enjoyable as you find yourself pulling for her and Finn to not only win out over the bad guys, but to get together in the end. Something, which sadly doesn’t happen. I found that to be a bit of a let down after all they had been through, but hey, it’s not my story to tell, and sometimes you need to have an unexpected ending rather than the plain old common formula.
The film itself is well shot, however, the thing that struck me was that it was quite grainy. I had originally thought this was due to low light video shooting, but have since been sent a correction saying that this was due to the fact that high speed 16mm film was used, and the graininess was intentional to give the film an exploitation era look. The sound throughout the film was quite good and you could clearly understand what everyone was saying. People may wonder why I mention that in all of my reviews. Well, it’s because a lot of independent films sadly don’t have very good sound, which makes it hard to understand the dialogue. For a night movie, the scenes were all well lit and everything that was going on was clearly visible. The editing was well done and the pacing of the film moved along with a relative slowness, but the speed at which it runs is well suited to the type of film that it is.
I don’t want to give the impression that this film is overly slow or like staring at wallpaper because it isn’t at all. It’s just one of those films that sort of grabs your attention and doesn’t let go, without you even realizing that’s what happened until it’s over and you have time to reflect on what you just saw. There is some cool, and well done action in this film, but for me at least, it seemed secondary to the relationship and connection that builds between Finn and Ally, which is brilliantly done. The rest of the acting ranged from good to just ok, but the chemistry between the two leads worked really well for me.
So would I recommend it? Definitely. This is a good late-night watcher. I think if you watched this film during the day, it would lose some of the special feeling it has since the entire movie takes place during the course of one night. Watching it at night really brings that feeling out and adds to the experience.