Urban, well-educated and affluent in its demographic, Noise takes on the very nature of civility—as articulated and defended by David Owen (Robbins), a rich white Manhattan lawyer. His pent-up rage toward city noise in general and Klaxon-like car alarms specifically builds with such pressure-cooker intensity that serial vandalism comes with swift, vein-popping glee. David christens himself “the Rectifier,” earning the ire of the mayor (Hurt) and the folksy respect of hoi polloi. It all unfolds with tongue firmly in cheek, yet the white-hot apoplexy bubbling throughout would make Howard Beale proud.
David’s fight-the-system vigilantism and the exasperated reality checks from his wife (Moynahan) feel like dramatic convention grafted over sociological agenda. But as he showed in The Believer (starring Ryan Gosling as a neo-Nazi Jew), Bean uses filmmaking more as a tool for discourse than a vehicle for verisimilitude. Then again, the corollary to civility is class, and Noise flirts with that issue rather than embracing it. Robbins’s lawyer is akin to Bernhard Goetz and Travis Bickle—but their violent outbursts were acts of true desperation in the face of social decay, while Noise measures its annoyance in a world of privilege. Everyone is entitled to complain, but some plights are less sympathetic than others.