Staten Island (2009) was directed by James DeMonaco who I don’t know much about other than he also directed Assault on Precinct 13 which starred Ethan Hawke. But I do know of the co-producer of this film – Luc Besson.
The first lead is Vincent D’Onofrio who performed in 131 episodes of TV’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent as Detective Robert Goren. Here D’Onofrio, as Parmie Tarzo, changes teams and portrays a small time mobster/hoodlum who wants to go big – as in take over all the criminal action in Staten Island. Instead of just running a small neighborhood crew, he wanted to be a boss of bosses. He might have looked better and had a more menacing persona had he not chosen to wear glasses similar to those worn by Elliot Gould in Oceans 11,12, & 13.
Ethan Hawke plays Sully Halvorsen who works in a shit job (literally) cleaning septic tanks. He and his wife played Julianne Nicholson, who also played a detective in 24 episodes of L&W: Criminal Intent, are finally ready to have a child together, and when they visit a fertility clinic, they hear of a program that can alter the genetic structure of the fetus. Amp up the smart genes, diminish the dumb genes, and give birth to a genius. Only it costs a suitcase or two of money which they don’t have.
Seymour Cassel has the role of a small time deli owner, Jasper Sabiano, who’d like to cash in a winning ticket at the horse races. He is also playing a deaf mute, so Cassel’s face becomes all the more important. Jasper is a good hearted guy. He has some special skills with the cutlery in the back room of his salumeria (deli) and for some reason, he has helped out Tarzo, in this regard, on a number of occasions.
Their paths cross one day at the deli – they crossed before but never all together – Tarzo and Halvorsen both were in the deli numerous times but never at the same time, until this first time.
Here’s where the story splits into three segments: Parmie’s, Sully’s, and Japser’s. DeMonaco will give us the before and after of each of these three leads before tieing all three strands together in a not surprising ending.
It is neither just a crime family story, nor is it a black comedy, nor is it a simple human drama. But at the same time it is all three. It is rather light weight meaning it is enjoyable, but it won’t make you rush out and call your friends.
It’s worth seeing because at times it is both involving and dramatic. But be warned that at times, the story seems to get away, with some flights of fancy which don’t really work if you take them seriously. But these are not flaws in the script. They’re more like fantasies by each of the leads which do work to take us away from some of the more grim parts of the story.
It is an interesting piece of film-making, not unlike a specialty sandwich which Jasper might make in his deli. Tasty as you partake of it, but not especially memorable.