NO WAY HOME is an outstanding, character-driven drama, steeped in a skid-row sense of reality. Boasting a trio of excellent lead performances, director-writer Buddy Giovinazzo's streetwise tale of two brothers in turmoil contains no false notes. The film unfortunately went the
straight-to-video route in the US.
Joey (Tim Roth) is released from prison after serving six years for murder. He is invited to live in his family's home in Staten Island by his older brother Tommy (James Russo). Tommy's wife Lorraine (Deborah Unger) is reluctant about the arrangment, since money is tight. Slow-witted but
thoughtful, Joey looks for an honest job--as Lorraine worries that her husband's drug dealing will send Joey back to prison if his parole officer shows up. Paying her no heed, Tommy continues to get his brother into trouble, while blowing off his long-overdue debts to a local loan shark, Ralphie
Scolaro (Joseph Ragno).
Exploring his past, Joey visits a former fiancee, Denise (Catherine Kellner), who deserted him after he went to prison. When Joey asks her why she didn't wait for him, she explains that she couldn't deal with the fact that he took the blame for a crime he didn't commit. After Joey escorts Lorraine
to one of her stripping jobs, she asks Joey what caused him to commit the murder that sent him into prison, the killing of a store owner during a botched robbery. Though he doesn't admit the truth to her, it was in fact Tommy who was responsible for the cold-blooded crime.
After being attacked in his home by Scolaro's thugs, Tommy inadvertently kills Joey's parole officer when he pays a surprise visit. Lorraine and Joey come back home and discover the body. When Scolaro's men return, Joey fends them off and Lorraine shoots one of them. The police arrive, and Tommy
suddenly orders his wife to blame Joey for the murders. Overhearing this, Joey says that he plans to tell the truth, this time around. During a final pang of conscience, Tommy declares his guilt, and is killed by the police. Free for the first time, Joey boards a bus and escapes his deadening
Buddy Giovinazzo's feature debut, COMBAT SHOCK (1986), proved he was capable of making a shocking, no-budget drama. His long-overdue sophomore effort accomplishes that same goal, while bringing a more complex human dimension to a similarly dysfunctional landscape. Filmed under the title GASOLINE
ALLEY (which was changed due to copyright problems involving the classic comic strip), this ode to brotherly love--and the consequences of abusing that trust--plays like a Mike Leigh rendition of TAXI DRIVER (1976). Although the film is punctuated by sudden moments of violence and bloodshed,
Giovinazzo never allows these elements to overwhelm the cooler, more intimate aspects of the drama.
The film's story line has a familiar aspect, but writer-director Giovinazzo transcends that potential liability with a quiet understanding of these battered souls. The lead trio contribute achingly-true performances, with Russo a scene-stealer as Tommy, a man so blissfully self-destructive that he
ignores the toll this takes on those around him. Roth is uncommonly reserved, and brings a weary sensitivity and regret to the role of Joey. Unger's long-suffering Lorraine is the most complex of the lot, struggling as she does with uncontrollable forces and family secrets. Giovinazzo's realistic
bent is further reflected in the outstanding production design, which sets the action in urban locales as weathered on the exterior as the characters are on the interior.
Steeped in emotional and physical brutality, and offering no easy answers, NO WAY HOME is a raw, unflinching portrait of family life at its most corrosive. (Graphic violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations, substance abuse, extreme profanity.)
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: NR
- Review: NO WAY HOME is an outstanding, character-driven drama, steeped in a skid-row sense of reality. Boasting a trio of excellent lead performances, director-writer Buddy Giovinazzo's streetwise tale of two brothers in turmoil contains no false notes. The film u… (more)