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:: Staten Island

Parmie Tarzo (Vincent D’Onofrio), a mob boss, wants to take complete control over the entire mob in Staten Island. After the Russian mafia betrays him and he luckily survives an assassination attempt against him, he goes into the woods that’s about to go through deforestation, climbs onto a tree and sits on top of a treehouse. The police and media soon arrive to try to persuade him to come down, but he refuses and claims that he’s protesting against deforestation.

Jasper Sabiano (Seymour Cassel), a deaf-mute deli worker, secretly works for Parmie cutting off body parts of deceased mob victims in a backroom of the deli. In the final subplot, Sully (Ethan Hawke), works a shitty job, literally, as a septic tank cleaner, and lives with his wife, Mary (Julianne Nicholson), who insists that he repeatedly take showers to remove any disgusting odors. He ends up fearing for his life after he breaks into Parmie’s house and steals $50,000 from a safe in order to pay for an experimental in-vitro procedure that would make their unborn baby more intelligent. Each of the three subplots unfolds nonlinearly with Parmie, Jasper and Sully eventually ending up together at the same time in the deli.

Writer/director James DeMonaco takes a standard concept about people getting into trouble with the mob in one way or another, and, essentially, invigorates the concept with dark, offbeat humor and very interesting characters. How often do you get to watch a film where a mafia boss turns into a crazy, environmental activist? The opening scene, which won’t be spoiled here, is quite an amusing and refreshingly original way to begin the film. DeMonaco deftly blends drama, action, tragedy, suspense and dark comedy in a way that’s never dull, awkward or over-the-top.

The intricate plot could have easily turned into a convoluted mess, but, thanks to a tight, intelligent screenplay, it remains focused, easy-to-follow and engaging throughout. Moreover, DeMonaco should be commended for not using shaky camerawork as a means to generate tension, especially during the gritty action sequences. At a running time of 1 hour and 35 minutes, Staten Island manages to be an invigorating, lively and captivating crime drama boasting a terrific cast, sharp dialogue and just the right amount of dark comic relief.

DVD Extras

audio commentary with Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio and director James DeMonaco
deleted scenes