Low-rent lawyer Harry Fabien, gets back at boxing promoter Alan King by setting up a few fights of his own, stiffing his barmaid mistress Jessica Lange for the finances.
To the accompaniment of Sam the Sham's Woolly Bully, the feet of Robert De Niro quickstep into shot and thereafter are seldom still in this jazzy, restless pound around the pavements, bars and locales of the seamy New York inhabited by born losers.
De Niro is ambulance-chasing lawyer Harry Fabien, another putz who wants to be Somebody, and another characterisation to relish from the Great Man. Director Winkler and screenwriter Richard Price's reworking of the Gerald Kersh novel - first filmed by Jules Dassin in 1950 - is an upbeat duck and dive through lower Manhattan.
Harry is a fast-talking big dreamer whose hyperkinesis ("I'm like a shark: I stop moving, I die") finds purpose when he is inspired by a dud lawsuit against a boxer to muscle in on the boxing promotion scene. All Harry's energy is directed to one night of bouts, one night that will be his big score. Meanwhile, his sympathetic married lover Helen (Lange) has a dream of her own, to move onwards and upwards from her tavern-owner husband. Running and hustling between tough guys with names like Boom Boom, the irrepressible Harry is unaware of the machinations of a growing band of enemies intent on sticking it to him.
As the tension leads to inevitable violence, all is not doom and alienation however, with some hilarious encounters, one-liners and ' incidents, and a sweetness about Harry and Helen that gives heart to the schemes. Winkler - whose distinguished C.V. as a producer includes several of Scorsese's movies and seven outings with De Niro - comes across more as a Scorsese devotee than a natural director, although this is considerably more lively than his worthy but dull debut Guilty By Suspicion.
With Price's gritty script, the committed collaboration of De Niro, solid work from Lange, Gorman and King, and Tak Fujimoto's vivid cinematography, Night and The City has much to recommend it.