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American Night underscores how much Pulp Fiction still impacts cinema almost three decades later. The plot follows a recently resurfaced Andy Warhol painting and the attempts of several characters to get their hands on it. The nonlinear story includes crime families, art lovers, and a down on his luck stuntman. All the action is broken down into chapters and topped with title cards to keep audiences up to date on people and places.
It is a risky direction to go in – especially when film history is littered with pale Pulp Fiction imitations. Starting in a diner where the staff dress like deceased rock stars is probably not the best idea. Having a pair of gunmen hold the place up in the opening moments before fading to the next scene is even worse. Yet, this is how American Night continues for around two hours. There are a lot of ideas that would be a nice homage in a vacuum. All grouped together, it is very derivative. Instead of finding its own identity, the film is content to rehash ideas from 1994.
The real shame is there is the opportunity for a good story. The premise is the type of simple set up that works best in noir. Instead of keeping things to the point, American Night becomes more convoluted over time. More characters and twists are added making it impossible to track – or care for – motivations. Added to that are the clumsy transitions between scenes. Some are simple fade outs while others will see a character from the previous scene superimposed over the new one. It leads to some unintentionally funny moments.
American Night tries to make sense of its convoluted story by constantly going back to previous scenes. This is nothing new, but showing the same moments from different camera angles only adds so much. Nothing is done to bring depth to the characters or story. Beautifully shot and containing an interesting set up, American Night looks and sounds fun. Unfortunately, it never settles down long enough to be appreciated. There is a good story here, it just needs a new coat of paint.
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