Staten Island, New York

Staten Island New York

On DVD: 
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Running Time: 
90 mins

I’m always intrigued by the process through which certain films make the cut for theatrical release and others get “dumped” on the “direct-to-DVD” market. In the past, this market (or its older cousin “direct-to-VHS)” was usually reserved for poorly done, low budget affairs. The sequel that wasn’t quite official or the sci-fi story that couldn’t get the special effects work that was needed to make it believable.

But now, with the advent of high quality film equipment and editing tools for reasonable rates has put the power of filmmaking in the hands of aspiring movie directors and producers…power that used to be limited exclusively to the heavy hitters. Now none of this is news to anyone who’s been following filmmaking over the past few decades. But I do wonder if this shift in power has made it possible for better films to be made, but not necessarily meet the cut (whatever the criteria might be) for theatrical distribution.

And as a result, I wonder if the “direct-to-DVD” status eventually won’t have the same stigma in the future that is does right now. Case in point (obviously) is this release, Staten Island, New York. You’ve got two solid actors in Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio. While neither are necessarily mega-superstars on the level of a Tom Cruise or a Denzel Washington, both are incredibly talented and have carried movies on their own in the past. Add in the fact that this is a Luc Besson-produced film and you’ve got some serious skill involved. A closer look at the credits reveals that most of team behind the camera was European (more specifically French), so perhaps this is a case of an outside film not finding a home with a domestic distributor.

Whatever the case, don’t let the “direct-to-DVD” nomenclature fool you here. This is a nice little film in its own right. If you’re a fan of the mob crime movie genre, you need to check this out. But be warned that this one is a little quirky and slightly off the wall. Hawke and D’Onofrio are joined by Seymour Cassel and Julianne Nicholson as Staten Island inhabitants who are trying to better their lives. D’Onofio is the mob boss aspiring to take over the whole island. Hawke and Nicholson are a young couple trying to get pregnant and dreaming of the best for a new child. Cassel plays a deaf and mute butcher who is used by the mob to sometimes help out with the more unsavory aspects of their job.

Each of these characters intersect at some point in the film, which is told in 3 “chapters.” There’s an aspect of the storytelling that reminds me just a bit of Rashomon, in that the same events are told a few times over from different perspectives. That’s not to say that this is on the same level of greatness as Kurosawa’s masterpiece, but there are faint similarities.

In the end, Staten Island isn’t a game changer or an earth shattering film, but it is a solid effort. If you’re a fan of anyone involved here or if you dig mob films, definitely check this out.

Jeremy Hunt
Review by Jeremy Hunt
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