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Overall Rating

Awesome: 9.09%
Worth A Look27.27%
Average: 24.24%
Pretty Bad: 21.21%
Total Crap: 18.18%

3 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Sidewalks of New York
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by Andrew Howe

"Plenty of fear and loathing, but not much else"
3 stars

Ed Burns obviously holds Woody Allen in high esteem, so he took a break from acting to write, direct and star in his own slice of the Big Apple. Best known for his performance as Private Reiben in Saving Private Ryan, he joins Heather Graham, Stanley Tucci and other B-list recruits in chronicling the lives and loves of six world-weary souls, playing out their quest for meaningful relationships against the backdrop of one of the world’s most recognisable skylines.

How can you be lonely in a city of 7 million people? If you believe Burns, it’s because we’ve become so self-absorbed that the notion of two hearts beating as one has been replaced with a clinical contractual arrangement – I’ll devote a portion of my valuable time to this partnership, but if you interfere with my personal goals or God-given right to do as I damn well please you’d better get used to the idea of closing-time pickups in low-rent watering holes. Empowerment is the buzzword for the new millennium – actually needing someone has become an old-fashioned notion, and in the years to come we may find the stigma once attached to thirtysomething singles will be transferred to anyone who has managed to hold on to a relationship for more than a couple of years.

That might be the way it is for a certain proportion of the population, but over the course of 100 minutes Burns’s hipster cynicism becomes vaguely grating. As evidence for the prosecution, I present the following character roster:

Tommy (Burns) – a freshly dumped yuppie who’s oblivious to the fact that his sensitive and mildly charming demeanour is an affectation designed to help him pick up impressionable women.

Maria (Rosario Dawson) – an emotionally reserved teacher who can’t drop her guard long enough to connect with potential partners on anything other than a superficial level.

Ashley (Brittany Murphy) – a professional victim who, at nineteen, has already learned the fine art of divorcing sex from emotion.

Griffin (Tucci) – a philandering cad whose predatory advances on Ashley have convinced him that the phrase “so many women, so little time” can be applied to balding dentists.

Annie (Graham) – Griffin’s wife, whose attempts to maintain a romantic worldview see her painted as something of a ditz.

Carpo, Harry and Hilary – slimy sexual dynamo, repressed Thoreau-wannabe and ball-breaking practitioner of pretension.

Benjamin (David Krumholtz) – a nice guy, interested in forming a meaningful partnership with Ashley. Appears to have wandered in from another film.

By now you’ve probably determined that you won’t be developing an investment in any of these miscreants - by the closing credits you wouldn’t give a damn if someone walked in and gunned down the lot of them, and after putting up with their less endearing character traits for the duration you’ll be ready to load the rifle yourself. Our involvement is further hindered by Burns’s pseudo-documentary shooting style - all of the characters lay their souls bare to an unseen cameraman with monotonous regularity (this is rarely anything more than a lazy technique designed to absolve the scriptwriter from communicating the required information through actions rather than words) while the rest of the film consists of a loose collection of scenes designed to ram home whatever point Burns feels like making at the time. It’s a low-stakes affair to begin with (nobody’s going to hang themselves if they still can’t find what they’re looking for), so the uninviting characters and momentum-sapping free-form narrative leave one with the impression of a well-intentioned but lightweight vanity project.

Which is not to say it doesn’t have its moments. It’s obvious Burns has memorised the conversation at every dinner party he’s attended over the last five years, and it’s resulted in some intermittently amusing and occasionally insightful dialogue (the film is, for all intents and purposes, a non-stop talkfest). The shoestring budget and evocative locations enhance the illusion that we’re walking a mile with real people, and if there’s nothing we haven’t seen before it’s difficult to complain when you’re enjoying Harry and Hilary’s dinnertime sniping or Griffin’s reaction to the news that he might not fill out his bikini briefs as well as he’d like to think.

Some of the cast members give the impression they’re amusing themselves between more important projects, but the constant improvisation is, for once, something other than a self-indulgent annoyance (nobody would pass muster in a Mike Leigh film, but the ad-libbing meshes with the scripted dialogue surprisingly well). Burns is particularly impressive – he’s a personable actor who brings a certain edge to his performances (comparisons to Matt Dillon are certainly not out of line), and if he can raise his profile over the next couple of years we might be looking at a leading man in the making.

To suggest he should remain in front of the camera is overly harsh – Sidewalks of New York is little more than a mildly entertaining diversion, but Burns’s ear for dialogue prevents it from becoming a forgotten footnote to a promising career. It’s been a long time since Allen made a trip to the cinema worth our while, and a taste of what we’ve been missing is better than nothing at all.

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originally posted: 04/17/02 20:30:36
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User Comments

6/29/10 art THIS'MOVIE" SUCK"S! 1 stars
4/06/10 the dork knight Unpleasant whitebread fucks and their charmless personalities. 3 stars
3/22/09 Dane Youssef Burns' is an one of the writer/director/actors working today. And THIS is one of his best. 5 stars
1/12/05 Sam Irritating and lacks continuity 1 stars
10/20/03 Uncle Salty I challenge anyone to find one single shred of a reason to watch this horrendous bore. 1 stars
1/11/03 Theresa Very well written, I love Ed Burns' work - he writes what he knows, and its very believable 5 stars
6/07/02 spyguy2 Brittany Murphy - Cute, but does she always give the same performance? Average flick. 3 stars
1/16/02 Andrew Carden Graham Gave A Memorable Performance. 5 stars
12/17/01 garnet harry nothing new but a good film 4 stars
12/06/01 Isabelle Fournier Who the fuck needs it? 1 stars
12/04/01 Martin It was a good little film and Ed Burns took a place in the ensemble rather than the LEAD. 4 stars
11/28/01 bradgray96 Most people at the Seattle Intl Film Festival loved it. 4 stars
11/25/01 Boomshanka The critics seem to love it, but let me tell you.. it's AWFUL! 1 stars
11/22/01 ron20003 Who is this guy and how does he get money to produce crap 1 stars
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  21-Nov-2001 (R)



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