The Night Never Sleeps (2012) – By Duane L. Martin

Sometimes I can’t tell if New York is really just one big colossal crap hole, or if it’s just getting a bad rap, but it sure is the location for a whole lot of crime dramas. Everything from television shows to indie films to huge, Hollywood blockbusters, and they all have some really nasty stories to tell. The Night Never Sleeps is another one of those stories.

This film was written by a career cop named Michael Lovaglio, and I’m sure reflects the way a lot of cops wish they could deal with serving up justice. The story itself is about a police officer named Seargent Thomas Cavanaugh (Dan Brennan) who’s in charge of a unit in a certain section of the city that’s riddled with crime. The other members of his team include Rourke (Stephanie Finochio) and Jablonsky (Robert Clohessy). They’re trying to find out who murdered one of their team in a sleazy bar, and the trail is leading them toward local gang called the Chicos Locos, headed by a local drug dealer named Victor Vargas (Jose Hernandez Jr.) and his enforcer, Iceman (Russ Camarda), who’s a ruthless, psychopathic killer. Things get ugly as the story progresses, and even uglier as more cops die, and Cavanaugh is tipped to the fact that one of their own might be dirty by Internal Affairs Inspector Romanelli (Armand Assante), who himself used to deal out rough justice when he was working as a street cop. Will Cavanaugh be able to stop them before its too late?

When I was contacted by Russ Camarda to review this film, I got excited. I had been seeing production stills from it for quite some time, and I absolutely love watching Dan Brennan in anything he’s in, so as soon as Russ contacted me and asked for a review, I was all over it.

All of us here at Rogue Cinema, and I’m sure that this goes for virtually anyone who reviews films, have certain genres that they gravitate toward. For me it’s comedy, sci-fi and fantasty films. Crime dramas aren’t really my thing usually, though I do enjoy them from time to time depending on the story. I particularly enjoy films where the cops go outside the law to deliver the justice that the law just can’t…or won’t. That’s exactly what this film is. These are good cops pushed to the edge, and when one of their own is brutally killed in the middle of a bar full of people, and no one saw anything, it was time to step outside the boundaries.

Aside from having a great story, this film is filled with incredible performances. Dan Brennan was awesome as usual. I never get tired of watching him perform. There’s even a side story that goes on between him and his ex-wife going back and forth in phone calls, constantly arguing about this and that. If you take the descriptive term "colossal bitch", and then multiply that by like, a bazillion, that’s his ex-wife. These sequences, while an aside to the story, give a real look into why the character has some of the attitude that he does. He’s got a hard enough job as it is, and when things are turning to crap all around him, he still has to deal with that bitch. Dan did a great job progressing from a normal kind of a tough street cop at the beginning of the film, to going over the edge at the conclusion. The progression was gradual and both the story, and the way he played it, really brought out the best in the character.

Russ Camarda as Iceman was another stand out character. The character was just a completely psychotic bastard, and Russ did a phenomenal job of portraying him that way. I don’t know if anyone could have brought this character to life like Russ did. Killing people wasn’t just his job, it was something he enjoyed. In fact, he was raping a local prostitute on a pool table right in front of the cop that got killed in the bar at the beginning of the film, and everyone else in the place. This guy did what he wanted, and no one was going to stop him.

Another really stand out performance was Armand Assante as Inspector Romanelli. He wasn’t in the film as a main player really. Mostly he just showed up to talk to Cavanaugh once in a while, but the scenes he did appear in, he just owned. Have you ever watched an actor, and thought, "My god, this guy is incredible!"? That’s how I felt when I saw him on the screen. I don’t feel that way about many actors, but sometimes you come across one that just grabs your attention and makes it instantly clear what a consummate professional they are at their craft.

Everyone in the film did a great job with their roles, and I could sit here and go through all the characters, but suffice it to say, this film has just a stellar cast.

There was only one real problem I had with the story, and that’s that Vargas was the head of the drug gang with Iceman as his enforcer. This is how it was supposed to be, but the lines are very blurred throughout the film, except in one scene near the end. Throughout most of the film, it feels like they’re equals, or that Iceman might even be more in charge while Vargas is sort of on the side doing his thing. This feeling particularly came out during the rape scene, but it was just a general feeling that persisted throughout the story. Then you come to that one scene near the end where it becomes clear that Vargas is in charge and Iceman works for him, and while it clears things up, it also makes you feel like that should have been made clearer. Iceman felt like the main character in the baddies, and truth be told he was. I think the story would have worked better with Vargas as his second, and Iceman running the show. Aside from that, I thought the story all worked really well.

The best way to describe this film is that it’s dark, hard and gritty. You really feel for the cops and how their hands are tied most of the time, and when they start losing their own to the thugs, it makes you really root for them when they start going over the edge to get justice. The good guys are people you pull for, and the baddies are people you want to see die in the most horrible ways possible, and you feel good when some of them finally do. That’s how you know when a film is good. When it makes you feel things. I could rattle off countless films that had two dimensional cardboard cut out characters that I felt absolutely nothing for. I almost never enjoy films like that. When a film can make you feel something, that’s when you know you have a winner, and this film definitely achieves that. The film is currently making the rounds at various film festivals and has been nominated for numerous awards. If you get a chance to see this film, make sure you don’t miss it. It’s definitely worth your time.

If you’d like to find out more about this film and keep up with what festivals it’s playing at, you can check out its Facebook page here.