Movie Review: A lot of stars swirl down the drain of “American Night”

Today’s tale of good actors making horrible choices is “American Night,” an Italian-made American mob war/art swindling debacle that lured Jonathan Rhys Myers, Paz Vega, Emile Hirsch, Jeremy Piven and Michael Madsen with the promise of a working vacation in Italy.

But “working” for writer-director-hack Alessio Della Valle (“The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”) proves their undoing. The lurid, bloody, bullet-riddled fiasco he serves up here is the shiniest turd in the toilet — pretentious, slick, empty and stupid.

It doesn’t convince you it’s shot where it is set — New York and New Jersey. It doesn’t rope you into the fate of anyone — all these criminals, forgers, art experts and couriers caught up in the tangled tale of the stolen “Pink Marilyn” by Andy Warhol that is this story’s MacGuffin.

Rhys Myers, playing an art dealer and former forger in love-lust with an art restorer (Vega), gets to roll around in paint in the most colorful sex scene ever. He has the added privilege of uttering profundities like this — “Shalom, angel of death. Shalom, angel of fire. Shalom angel of peace.”

Vega? Her best lines might be shouting “JOHN” as he shouts “SARAH” back and forth with her several times at one point.

Piven plays a failing stunt man who finally almost masters the martial arts he’s supposed to know, the step-brother John eventually figures out somehow got the rolled-up painting in a gym-bag-at-the-bar mixup. Piven always looks as if he’s just taken his head out of his hands, struggling to hide his despair every time the word “AZIONE!” is shouted on set.

Hirsch shaved his head for this, just to play a spoiled heir to a Jersey mob family who thinks his spatter paintings — punctured by AK-47 rounds — should be hanging in the Met. It’s his dad’s Warhol painting that was stolen.

“My Marilyn — she’s coming home to me today. Like a woman who’s cheating on you, she always knows when she has to show up.”

Say what?

Madsen, playing a mobster, gets off lightly.

Fortunato Cerlino plays “Shakey,” a mob courier who misplays the whole painting hand-off thing partly thanks to the fact that the “Dead Rockstar Bar” (check out the bartenders — Joey Ramone, Prince, etc.) is hit by not one machine-gun armed gang, but two the same night.

Shakey has narcolepsy and dozes off in moments of stress. I found myself envying him, time and again.

A lot of things blow up, a lot of bullets are loosed and a few stunts are attempted and let’s just hope nobody got hurt making this.

So much blood, so much death — it’d be a shame if any of it was real, not that anything we see here is convincingly real, with or without the excruciating death scenes.

Let’s hope one and all enjoyed their paid Italian vacations.

Rating: R for violence, sexual content, nudity, and language throughout

Cast: Jonathan Rhys Myers, Paz Vega, Emile Hirsch, Jeremy Piven, Michael Madsen, Alba Amira and Fortunato Cerlino.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Alessio Della Valle. A Lionsgate/Voltage/Saban release.

Running time: 2:04

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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