The movie is a coming-of-age drama about a boy growing up in Astoria, New York during the 1980s. As his friends end up dead, on drugs, or in prison. He comes to believe he has been saved fro... Read allThe movie is a coming-of-age drama about a boy growing up in Astoria, New York during the 1980s. As his friends end up dead, on drugs, or in prison. He comes to believe he has been saved from their fates by various so-called saints.The movie is a coming-of-age drama about a boy growing up in Astoria, New York during the 1980s. As his friends end up dead, on drugs, or in prison. He comes to believe he has been saved from their fates by various so-called saints.
A Bronx Tale effected me in a way that totally came out of left field. By delivering its brutal honesty with cold, authentic realism was audacious and showcasing three exquisite talents (one of them, Chazz Palminteri, present here), it delivered a coming of age drama, deeper and more reliant on values than any one I've previously seen. Do the Right Thing was a crisp, lively drama relying on racial tensions and impending chaos that would ensue from enduring a brutally hot day in Brooklyn. Spike Lee brilliantly concocted tension through character development and human conversation, and almost implying, throughout the course of the entire film, that no character did "the right thing." But whatever your definition of the right thing was, you could disagree with me.
Montiel is more interested with telling his story more than tacking on a fancy moral or showing any deep, subversive element in particular, which is perfectly fine with me. His close-to-home story is buoyant on its own, relying on strong performances from charismatic leads and is elevated by bright, humid, and mercilessly seamy cinematography. Montiel himself is our protagonist, played in his later years by Robert Downey Jr., a successful writer, yet absent family-man, Dito's mother calls him one day, twenty years after leaving behind his home in Queens, to return home to convince his father (Chazz Palminteri) to go to the hospital after falling gravely ill. Upon returning home, he sees Queens isn't much different, still crime-infested and relatively unprotected from the destructive youth and the passive adults, but notices that his longtime friends' ambitions of being lawless and as juvenile as possible have surged into adulthood.
This story is spliced with flashbacks from 1986, the year when Dito (Shia LeBeouf) abandoned everything he erected in Queens, when Dito was only concerned about hanging with his friends Antonio (Channing Tatum), Laurie (Melonie Diaz), and Mike (Martin Compston), causing trouble and wreaking havoc. The film casually follows the youth's events and run-ins with relationships, sexual encounters, conversations, and troubled instances, and often showing their home-lifes as the least of their concerns.
Palminteri gives a wonderful performance here, confidently lax, yet remarkably genuine and subdued, often providing his son Dito with father-like guidance that often gets ignored when the going gets tough. When Dito is seen in present time, he is unforgiven by his father who views his move to leave home not noble and commendable, like some would, but rather shameful and deviant. He views his son's return home as no more than a cop out move, somewhat more shameful than him leaving. His offer to make amends feels forced and trite and he ain't buying it.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints consistently maintains a gritty atmosphere and always feels alive and raw, even when it's at its calmest times. The performances, mainly from LeBeouf, Tatum, Downey Jr., Palminteri, and Rosario Dawson, who could've benefited from more screen time, use the story's difficult themes of family relations and devotions to their favor, and never does much of this lack genuine feeling, thanks to Mantiel manning the camera and working the pen on this project. To call this film "solid" would be sort of an understatement, yet to call this "groundbreaking" or even "wonderful" would be a bit much. I'll go with "meaningful:" seems to meet them halfway.
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Shia LaBeouf, Rosario Dawson, Melonie Diaz, Chazz Palminteri, Martin Compston, Eric Roberts, Channing Tatum, Dianne Wiest. Directed by: Dito Montiel.
- Jan 25, 2013