In some ways, this is the typical, socially-conscious Tim Robbins film, and knowing his political views, can see why he took this on. He plays David Owen, a crusader against the curse of unwanted noise, who begins a campaign against car alarms, in particular. This goes beyond the usual letter-writing campaign: he stalks the streets of New York, armed with a hammer and wire-cutters as 'The Rectifier', taking far more direct action against those who let their sirens pollute the still of the night. While the police are less than enamored by his techniques, he becomes something of a cause celebre to the public. This is much to the digust of the city mayor (Hurt ), who is unimpressed, even when David is coaxed into more legal methods of protest, and vows to stop The Rectifier from achieving his goal of world peace (and quiet...).
It's quite a well-thought out film, albeit occasionally one that trips on its own cleverness, as when characters pause to discuss Hegelian philosophy. For the most part, however, it stays just this side of show-off smart, with a neat twist at the end, in a courtroom scene where you are actually hoping the hero is found guilty, a reversal of the usual such things. Robbins is solid as you'd expect, though Moynahan is less well-used as his wife, a role that really doesn't seem to serve much purpose. There are fragments of other views at the start, such as from the police or alarm manufacturers, and it might have been nice to retain that multi-faceted approach, as it definitely gives an amusingly-realistic edge to things - "The Rectifier" was based on the director's actions own actions, albeit glamourized and glorified [If someone takes this film and runs with the actions, I hope the director is ready for a large law-suit] It certainly does a good job of putting us off moving to New York - or if we do, we'll be packing several decades' worth of ear-plugs.