The writer-director James DeMonaco is a native Staten Islander, and if his film “Staten Island, New York” is an ode to what it calls “the forgotten stepchild of Manhattan,” it is a barbed and quirky one. Using a nonlinear, Tarantino-esque narrative, Mr. DeMonaco adroitly weaves violence, absurdity and sentiment, even an environmental consciousness, into a modest, appealing fable.
The characters, all gazing longingly at Manhattan, are archetypes of a sort. Parmie Tarzo (Vincent D’Onofrio) is a minor-league mobster wanting to expand operations. Betrayed to the Russian mob, he narrowly escapes a murder attempt, and takes refuge in a treehouse in a wildlife area where protesters fight a planned development.
Sully Halverson (Ethan Hawke), a rather dim septic-tank cleaner, and his wife, Mary (the underused yet always vivid Julianne Nicholson, an alum, like Mr. D’Onofrio, of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”), are prospective parents. Desperate to pay for an operation for his unborn son, Sully steals money from Parmie and is soon in very hot water.
Sully’s pal Jasper Sabiano (the veteran actor Seymour Cassel, in brilliant form) is deaf and works in a deli, chopping corpses for Parmie in the back room when he isn’t packaging salami. When Jasper gets lucky at off-track betting, he resolves to do Sully a big favor.
Mr. D’Onofrio, as a mother-obsessed thug, exploits his bulk for laughs, and Mr. Hawke is a sympathetic working stiff. But it’s the weathered countenance and luminous eyes of Mr. Cassel’s Gigot-like Jasper that ultimately deliver the story’s tender wallop.
Thank you for posting this Jeffan. This film will be at Netflix beginning of December (next week) and I have it at the top of my list.
That scene with Parmie carrying his Mom to bed is eerily familiar from "The Whole Wide World." VDO character as a Mama's Boy. Also in "Nunzio's Second Cousin," we see him dominated by his mother Eileen Brennan.
Excerpted from The Village Voice -- in the accompanying trailer we see Mr. D'Onofio's character:
Staten Island Movie Unlike to Lift Borough's Image By Roy Edroso in Featured, Staten Island, The Arts Tuesday, Dec. 8 2009 @ 1:24PM
Staten Island gets a bum rap and God knows we try to show the Forgotten Borough in a positive light. But japes like SNL's Gossip Girl: Staten Island threaten to undo all our good work.
And the new film Staten Island by first-time director James DeMonaco won't help, either. The trailer shows the place to be full of wacky gangsters (including Vincent D'Onofrio in Swifty Lazar glasses), and Ethan Hawke plays a septic tank cleaner.
Reviewing for the Advance, Todd Hill (ha!) says the movie is not "yet another cheapo effort starring bit players from 'The Sopranos' cashing in on the Island's reputation," but is a "warm-hearted tale of three men striving for a better life the best ways they know how" (mostly involving crime and dismemberment). Also, "it knows what it's like to live here, and it reminds us that it's not so bad." Well, there's a ringing endorsement.
Patrick Roy, 2006 inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame