The Narrows -- Film Review

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Working-class boy with artistic aspirations is caught between the Brooklyn mob and Manhattan dreams in this been-there, done-that drama. Director Francois A. Velle pays admirable attention to setting and detail, yet little feels fresh or fully alive in "The Narrows," which recently bowed in New York and Los Angeles.
With echoes of "Saturday Night Fever," "Fingers" and "Mean Streets," as well as countless other crime sagas, the indie film finds Mike Manadoro (Kevin Zegers) at a crossroads. His widowed father (Vincent D'Onofrio), a former sanitation worker living on disability and his earnings as a bookie, is too proud to let Mike accept a university scholarship. So when Bay Ridge kingpin Tony (Titus Welliver) offers Mike a high-paying courier job, he sees a solution to his tuition woes.

When he's not running mysterious packages across the city, Mike is on campus, studying the craft of photography. Soon he's caught between the usual conflicts, cliches and stereotypes: commerce versus art; the provincial neighborhood versus the world of possibility across the bridge; his wedding-eager girlfriend (Monica Keena) versus a sophisticated WASP classmate (Sophia Bush). A subplot centering on Mike's childhood friend (Eddie Cahill), a war-damaged vet just back from Afghanistan, never jells dramatically but provides an opportunity for gruesome violence. Screenwriter Tatiana Blackington's escalating plot twists only drain the movie of impact.

Zegers, who was terrific in "Transamerica," has charisma as Mike but is not entirely convincing as brooding artist or tough guy. Most of the performances are by the well-worn numbers, with two exceptions. Tony's icy menace has the weight of hard-won authority in Welliver's hands. And D'Onofrio's Vinny, by far the film's most complex and compelling character, suggests a far more interesting story than the one that unfolds onscreen.

Opened: Friday, June 19 (Cinedigm)
Production: A Serenade Films production in association with Mr. Nice and Olympus Pictures
Cast: Kevin Zegers, Vincent D'Onofrio, Sophia Bush, Eddie Cahill, Monica Keena, Roger Rees, Titus Welliver
Director: Francois A. Velle
Screenwriter: Tatiana Blackington
Based on the novel "Heart of the Old Country" by Tim McLoughlin
Executive producers: Michael Nozik, Todd James, Michael Hoffman, Dean Vanech, Daniel Revers, Nicolas Velle
Producers: Leslie Urdang, Ami Armstrong, Tatiana Blackington
Director of photography: Seamus Tierney
Production designer: Aleta Shaffer. Music: Richard Marvin
Costume designer: Nina Schelich
Co-producers: Geoff Linville, Fran Giblin
Editor: Patrick Gallagher
Rated R, 106 minutes
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