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Cop-killing drug lord
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The dominant themes of director Sidney Lumet's distinguished career are in full force in this moral melodrama involving a young district attorney (Andy Garcia) who takes on a career-making case only to uncover his father's possible involvement in pervasive police corruption. Balancing personal ethics and political compromise in a high-wire act of power and its abuse, Lumet relies on dialogue and superb performances (including those by Ron Leibman, Richard Dreyfuss, and Lena Olin) to achieve a devastating impact. The script (based on the novel Tainted Evidence by Robert Daley) is too smart and Lumet's direction too sure-footed to fall back on the black-and-white exploits of conventional criminals and their crimes. The movie's moral framework (like that of Lumet's earlier film Q&A) is more realistic, dealing in the gray areas between right and wrong where misdeeds can arise from the best intentions. At the center of Garcia's dilemma is his father, a seasoned New York cop played so convincingly by Ian Holm that you'd never guess the actor was British. Although it received mixed reviews when released in 1997, Night Falls on Manhattan ranks among Lumet's finest films. --Jeff Shannon
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