Staten Island -- Film Review

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Staten Island is regarded as New York's bastard stepchild of a borough, and unfortunately, this film is unlikely to enhance its reputation.

A Tarantino-influenced crime drama featuring a tripartite story line that is far too precious for its own good, "Staten Island" will do nonexistent biz in theaters but should garner video and television exposure thanks to its reasonably well-known cast.

Actually, the film is less reminiscent of Tarantino than Sidney Lumet's "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," thanks to its time-shifting chronology and the presence of Ethan Hawke, playing yet another grungy lowlife. (For his next film, this talented actor really needs to shave and perhaps don a tuxedo.)

Hawke plays Sully, a septic-tank cleaner desperate to raise funds for, get this, an in-vitro gene therapy treatment that will boost the IQ of his unborn son. The other main characters are Parmelo (Vincent D'Onofrio), a quirky, mother-loving mob boss who, in one of the film's more ridiculous plot points, winds up in a tree protesting its imminent deforestation, and Jasper (Seymour Cassel), a deaf-mute butcher who supplements his income by applying his trade to Parmelo's unfortunate victims.

Writer-director James DeMonaco, a Staten Island native, clearly knows his milieu, providing a scenic travelogue of the borough that is unlikely to spark an influx of new residents. And as in "Saturday Night Fever," the characters not surprisingly spend more than a little time gazing wistfully at the nearby Manhattan skyline.

The talented actors seem to be relishing the oddness of their roles, with Cassel coming off best, though the fact that he has no dialogue probably is a help.

For his next effort, the filmmaker might try setting his sights a little higher. Perhaps Queens?

Opens: Friday, Nov. 20 (Why Not US/Eurocorp)
Production: Eurocorp/Why Not US, Open City Films
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Seymour Cassel, Julianne Nicholson
Director-screenwriter: James DeMonaco
Producers: Luc Besson, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, Pacal Caucheteux, Sebastien K. Lemercier
Executive producers: Joana Vicente, Jason Kliot
Director of photography: Christopher Norr
Editors: Herve De Luze, Chrystel Dewynter
Production designer: Stephen Beatrice
Costume designer: Rebecca Hofherr
Music: Frederic Verrieres
Rated R, 96 minutes
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