The Bulls’ Night Out (2000)

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Although Lindley Farley’s crime thriller was filmed in 1998, it feels so much like a displaced hidden gem that feels like it was made in 1978. It often watches like a gritty entry from William Friedkin or Don Siegel (I mean that as a compliment). It’s pretty awesome how well directed and composed “The Bulls’ Night Out” is as it’s teeming with top notch collective talent as well as an engaging narrative. “The Bulls’ Night Out” is that classic crime thriller about aging crime fighter trying to adjust to a new world where crime is much different than it was when they were younger.

George Wall is a retired New York City police detective and now owner of Ruby’s Bar. Once a month he gathers with his old police crew for a “Bulls’ Night Out” of drinking and fellowship. One night, the bar is held up by a young junkie. George and his retired police friends teach the bandit a lesson in street justice, and determine with the neighborhood sliding into drug-fueled violence and the police seeming to have their hands tied, that they are in a unique position to up-end the drug activity.

From a budget of $37,000, “The Bulls’ Night Out” reminded me a lot of gems like “O.G.” and “Vigilante,” where we center on a group of men well past their prime anxious to find a way right the wrongs they weren’t able to correct in their peak years. A lot of Lindley’s film surpasses the considerable low budget by simplifying a lot of its set up to one or two set pieces. Thankfully Lindley’s screenplay is able to successfully overcome what often resembles a chamber piece to stir up what a powder keg of tension and frustration between friends.

A lot of “The Bulls’ Night Out” revolves around George anxiously trying to stop a purported drug dealing racket and hopelessly falling in to a nigh endless loop of sneaking in to corners and questions. Lindley gives this world a lot of character allowing the New York setting to flourish around the older characters as an interesting juxtaposition to their old ways of solving crime and the new ways that their world operates. As a side note it’s a real treat to see the city circa 1998. “The Bulls’ Night Out” relies heavily on its collective performances and director Lindley is able to derive some truly strong turns. There’s especially Jack Marnell who is just fantastic in the lead role.

As George Wall he offers a nuanced often bittersweet take on a man who once thrived on fighting crime and can only really stand by in his declining age. That said there are some narrative issues, and the plot by the group does skirt a bit on the convoluted side at times. Plus, I don’t know how well the themes of police corruption and vigilante justice would fare in modern times. There are also some performances that are a tad over the top. Thankfully those caveats never hindered the overall experience. “The Bulls’ Night Out” is a very good amalgam of the neo-noir and crime thriller that deserves a larger audience.