Staten Island has the stench of meat left on the counter for too long, a byproduct of both its ‘90s crime-pic structure—in which the stories of three Staten Island residents intersect, with one particular scene serving as the triptych’s nexus—and its fondness for stale mob clichés and forced indie quirkiness. Apparently, Ethan Hawke didn’t satiate his hunger to play a bungling tri-state area robber with Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, because he’s at it again here as Sully, an ineloquent septic tank cleaner who, like mob boss Parmelo Tarzo (Vincent D’Onofrio), is wracked by an inferiority complex that, as indicated by shots of both men staring with longing and disdain at the NYC skyline, is symptomatic of their borough’s relationship to Manhattan. Sully robs Parmelo so that he can pay for experimental in-vitro gene manipulation that’ll make his unborn baby with Mary (Julianne Nicholson) a genius, a plot that naturally goes awry, though not before we’ve first endured the collapse of Parmelo’s plans to become the island’s ruling boss. As befitting a tale composed of listless idiosyncrasies and bathos, Parmelo is only saved from certain death by an ability to hold his breath underwater, a talent practiced—in order to break a world’s record—even on evenings when he’s busy torturing enemies. This hobby, his subsequent anti-deforestation protest at the top of an elm tree, and Sully’s desire to have a kid smarter than himself all speak to their little-man syndrome. Yet despite generally eschewing look-at-me directorial displays during the first two acts, writer-director James DeMonaco’s tales are still rote genre mechanisms notable for their adherence to stock types and strained interconnectivity. In the last third, Staten Island goes maudlin via deaf-mute deli man Jasper (Seymour Cassel), who wins at OTB for the first time in 20 years and grows tired of his side-job cutting up Parmelo’s dead victims. His ultimate revenge is meant to be inspiring, but like the moments that hew to Jasper’s muffled-sound POV, or the prolonged crane shot that concludes his retribution, it’s merely hollow posturing that reveals far less about the film’s setting than does an end-credits montage of local sights.
- E1 Entertainment
- 96 min
- James DeMonaco
- James DeMonaco
- Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Seymour Cassel, Julianne Nicholson
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