Judge David Johnson buried his treasure on Staten Island. And by "treasure" he means "pants."
There's no such thing as the perfect crime.
Three stories intersect in a flurry of violence at that hotbed of cinematic action—Staten Island, New York.
Facts of the Case
Story 1: Parmie Tarzo (Vincent Do'Onofrio, Law and Order: Criminal Intent) is a small-time gangster who sees an opportunity to corner the criminal market of Staten Island. Though he's hugely outnumbered by competing crews, he's convinced that a moderate amount of murdering will score him the crown. But a freak run-in with some bullets will give him a new, more eco-friendly priority.
Story 2: Sully (Ethan Hawke, Training Day) empties septic tanks for a living and has just learned his wife is expecting their first child. He is so ecstatic about this, upon discovering there's a genetic procedure that will enhance his kid's intelligence, he decides to pull off a robbery to fund it. There's an excellent chance this is a horrible idea.
Story 3: Jasper (Seymour Cassel, Rushmore) is a deaf, kind-hearted butcher who…chops up dead bodies for Parmie Tarzo?!!
I was surprised at how much of an impact this movie had on me…at least while I was watching it. Once the end credits had rolled and I had some time think back on the events of Staten Island I realized some of the plot devices were extraordinarily goofy and, while the drama was potent, the circumstances which led to the film's emotional gut punch were hard to swallow.
Take Sully's story for example. I know this character is supposed to be stupid, but how stupid do you have to be to pull off a robbery that is absolutely assured to end very, very, very badly? Sure the genetic manipulation thing is far-fetched, but taking it as a real possibility, why would a guy risk his family to try something like this? He's almost too stupid to earn any sympathy, and I found myself going back and forth between "aww, poor dumb loser" to "what a dumb loser!"
What connected me to Sully's plight in the moment was Ethan Hawke's awesome performance. The guy really brings it here and is the primary reason for the film's success in tricking my brain into emoting with his dumbass choices. Hawk nails the blue-collar simpleton. Whatever success Staten Island earns should be laid at Hawke's feet.
The peripheral stories aren't as interesting. Jasper's is okay and he's a lovable character until you pause for a few seconds and realize that he FREAKIN' CHOPS UP DEAD BODIES IN HIS BUTCHER SHOP! Lastly, there's Tarzo himself. His story is so boring and uneventful I've almost completely forgotten it.
The DVD: an attractive 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and a 5.1 surround mix are joined with a commentary from Hawke, D'Onofrio, and writer/director James DeMonaco; an interview with D'Onofrio; and some deleted scenes.
Even though it unravels the more you think about it, Staten Island isn't that bad. You could do worse on a Friday night.
How about a slap on the wrist?
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