According to the press kit for “The Bulls’ Night Out,” director Lindley Farley has plans to remake the $37,000 indie with a real budget and a professional cast, including Danny Aiello, Lou Gossett and Roy Scheider. That might not be a bad idea, provided he’s taken another whack at the script in the five years since “Bulls” was completed. The premise is promising, but the follow-through is often shaky.
Once a month at the Park Place Bar, it’s the bulls’ night out; a night for retired and off-duty members of the NYPD to congregate at the bar owned by George Wall (Jack Marnell), himself a retired cop. Remember “Archie Bunker’s Place,” the short-lived follow-up to “All in the Family”? Well, the Park Place bar is a lot like that, except everyone in the joint is Archie Bunker. Everyone, that is, except for George’s daughter Ruby and her fiancé Jeremy, an anti-authoritarian type with Kenny G hair who doesn’t exactly meet with George’s approval. George sucks it up, though, and decides to host their wedding reception, despite Jeremy’s misgivings.
When a young punk attempts to rob the bar one night while four of the retirees are playing poker, the ex-cops take matters into their own hands and dispense a little old fashioned vigilante justice. This event spurs them to twist the meaning of “bulls’ night out” a bit – they vow to team up and “take back the streets.” In concept, they’re a bit like the NYPD equivalent of the grizzled astronauts in “Space Cowboys” or the gray mobsters of “The Crew.” But Farley doesn’t have a firm grasp on the tone he’s after, and despite some initial grittiness, the movie veers into some wildly melodramatic and eye-rolling territory. The performances are wobbly as well, and though a couple of the bulls are low-key and effective, Steve Kasprzak is the epitome of overwrought hysteria as the loose cannon Louie. The last ten minutes are a real disaster, shattering all the credibility of the early scenes. If the big-budget remake is indeed imminent, Farley would do well to rip out his third act and deal a little more believably with the story he’s set up. With the NYPD much in the news recently, issues of police brutality and fascist tactics are more timely than ever. But in the end, “Bulls’ Night Out” is (bad pun alert) little more than a cop-out.