A interesting, little-seen mystery that came and went from theatres last year, "The Night Listener" stars Robin Williams (once again proving that he's capable of offering a strong dramatic effort) as Gabriel Noone, a talk show host who goes on in New York City in the middle of the night. With his partner (Bobby Canavale) having recently left him, his manager (Joe Morton) hands him an unpublished book in order to try to put his mind on other things. The book deals with the real events of a young man named Peter Logand (Rory Culkin), whose parents abused him horribly and he is now suffering from HIV.
However, Gabriel soon begins to notice that Peter and his foster mother, Donna (Toni Collette) seem to have almost identical voices. Curiosity drives Gabriel to investigate the story and eventually heads to Wisconsin to try and discover the truth. When he gets there, he finds that no one seems to have ever seen Pete, and yet Donna seems to have her story straight when he begins to question her.
Again, Williams proves here that he can easily do drama. This is not a particularly well-developed character, but Williams provides a compelling portrayal of an emotionally broken-down man and gives the character depth that's not in the material. Despite a somber, quiet performance, Williams maintains a rich intensity. Director Patrick Stettner (the terrific "Business of Strangers") also does give the film a haunting mood and atmosphere.
However, despite a great performance from Williams, a main issue with the film is that the twists are fairly predictable. At a fat-free (and then some) 81 minutes, the story and characters also seem rather underdeveloped. While I'm all for movies being lean, I can't remember the last feature film drama I saw that ran 80 minutes and change.
VIDEO: "Night Listener" is presented by Miramax in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality is generally good, as the often dimly-lit film looked crisp and clear, with consistently fine - if not noteworthy - sharpness and detail. As for issues, some minor edge enhancement is seen in a few scenes, but otherwise no problems are spotted. Colors remained subdued, but accurately presented.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was just fine for the material. Surrounds are not employed much, but that is to be expected for a dialogue-driven feature. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue, score and effects.
EXTRAS: Deleted scene and "making of" featurette.
Final Thoughts: "Night Listener" offers a chilly and haunting atmosphere and another terrific dramatic performance from Robin Williams, but the twisty story remains a tad predictable and, at 82 minutes, the film feels too thin. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality, but minimal supplements. Fans of Williams in a more dramatic performance should consider a rental.
The Film B-