Writer/director Michael Sergio's debut feature opens with a sequence in which a scrawny junkie kid staggers to his death through a desolate urban landscape; it's both dramatically powerful and semi-amateurish looking, and you get the feeling that the remainder of the film could go either way. Fortunately, despite occasional lapses into melodrama, it mostly gets better; it may not be as epochal a piece of work as MEAN STREETS, but packs what feels like a real-life punch none the less. The story, set in Astoria, Queens, across the river and a world away from Manhattan, centers on Ryan (Michael Rodrick), the older brother of the opening scene's dead junkie; he's returned to the old neighborhood after spending time in prison on a trumped-up charge. Trying to pick up the pieces of his life, he has to deal with his other brother Eddie (Brian Vincent), a gangster wannabe who's hopelessly inept at crime and a stone junkie to boot, and with Vincent (Jonathan LaPaglia), the local wiseguy who set him up and has married Ryan's old girlfriend Carla (Jordan Bayne). Carla, it turns out, is an ex-junkie who has almost literally sold her soul to the devil, and in the film's most wrenching scene, Vincent shoots her up and sodomizes her as a helpless Ryan looks on at gunpoint. You can pretty much predict what's going to happen after that just about everybody will wind up dead, particularly those who deserve it but Sergio has a good eye and ear for the story's working-class milieu and gets terrific performances from an interesting ensemble cast, including Dominic Chianese and Vincent Pastore as, respectively, a wise priest and a local hood. Mob saga aficionados will recognize those two as, respectively, Uncle Junior and Big Pussy from TV's The Sopranos.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: R
- Review: Writer/director Michael Sergio's debut feature opens with a sequence in which a scrawny junkie kid staggers to his death through a desolate urban landscape; it's both dramatically powerful and semi-amateurish looking, and you get the feeling that the remai… (more)