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Staten Island - suspense DVD / thriller DVD / mystery DVD review
STATEN ISLAND Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 3 1/2 stars
Actors: Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Seymour Cassel, Julianne Nicholson
Director: James DeMonaco   Studio: National Entertainment Media
DVD release: 22 December 2009   Runtime: 90 min.
(1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD features: Aspect ratio 1.77:1, Audio tracks (English - Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Subtitles (English SDH, Spanish), Feature commentary (dir. James DeMonaco, actors Vincent D'Onofrio and Ethan Hawke, Deleted scenes, Trailer

Staten Island: that unique little district of New York City that has been tied to the mafia for decades. It is perfect - rather unobtrusive in a dark, mysterious sort of way - where the mob's hits are easily hidden among the swampy, infrequently travelled terrain. The living conditions are also slightly more spacious, allowing for a degree of privacy among people whose business requires more than just the illusion of privacy that the big city offers.

Vincent D'Onofrio portrays "Parmie," a mediocre mob boss with schemes to control over all of Staten Island. Can anyone say "delusions of grandeur"? Parmie soon finds out that loose lips sink ships when one of his inner circle becomes a Judas in the flesh. His world may have been smashed, but he's not ready to give up his attention-grabbing ways. What else can he do but climb a tree - literally?

Ethan Hawke is "Sully," motivated by love but obviously a little stunted in his mental acuity. He's a septic tank engineer - job description: emptying waste from people's septic tanks. He doesn't think too highly of himself, but he loves his woman and the child they are going to have together. Sully wants to offer that child the chance to be smarter than he. Though he means well, he's a moron.

The best and most influential presence on the film is Seymour Cassel as "Jasper," a deaf mute whose life and business have been shadowed by the mob to the point of being stifled. He knows both Sully and Parmie in an intimate way unique to those who only watch and never speak. Opportunity - a chance for change - has come knocking in the form of a large sum of money, but what can he do with it?

The combined tales of these three protagonists and the underlying roles of the supporting characters make for an interesting - though not top-notch - mafia drama. With the film's timeline beginning mid-story, jumping forward, then heading back, viewers may have some difficulty following along, but not for long. The film's initial slow pace picks up a bit as the characters and story grow more familiar, then goes full-swing for the remainder of the film.

Any good mafia film will include some gore, Staten Island is no exception. Some may find the viewing a little too much, but the scenes are brief (and shutting one's eyes can help to skip through them). Ultimately, this is a rather wacky but fun film, something to watch on a Friday night when going out sounds less appealing than staying in. There's action, good acting, great cinematography, an interesting drama, and great actors-what more could you ask for?
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reviewed by Sonia R. Polinsky
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