A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints

"Good"

A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints Review


Dito Montiel grew up in an ungentrified Astoria, Queens, in the '80s, running with semi-hoodlums and raising misdemeanor-sized hell. But unlike a lot of teenage thugs-in-training, Montiel escaped his neighborhood to become a writer. His book A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, unread by me, chronicles his roughneck coming of age; now he has written and directed a film version of the same name. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints has become Montiel's indie-flavored brand; I look forward to his self-drawn Saints comic book, or maybe a line of handcrafted rough-and-tumble action figures and Astoria playset.

Judging solely from his film, Montiel can actually write, at least as far as authentic dialogue goes. His characters hem and haw and shout at each other, profanities overlapping and cascading yet going nowhere. The scenes of young Dito (Shia LaBeouf), his family, and his friends crammed into his kitchen can be wearying, but also show an expert knowledge of the way the ruts of people's lives can create a jocular yet maddening hardheadedness.

As a teenager, Dito stands slightly apart from the chatter, scuffles, and general BS around him. His familiarity with this world is clear, but he isn't as satisfied with a life of thuggery as his squinting, frequently shirtless friend Antonio (budding teen star Channing Tatum, who looks sort of like Josh Hartnett halfway through a special-effects morph into the Incredible Hulk), who bases his life around looking for scores to settle.

Sometimes it seems like Dito's father Monty -- played by Chazz Paliminteri, trading his usual gangster menace for a heartbreaking fragility of body and spirit -- likes Antonio more than his son does. Antonio is comforting to the father because he represents a complete lack of interest in ever leaving the neighborhood. That the guy is also a criminal in waiting -- coarse, abused, frustrated, vengeful -- matters little in the face of his hardscrabble loyalty. Tatum is vivid as this tragic jackass, though it's hard to tell if the actor's range extends beyond wounded brutes.

The film cuts between the coming-of-age stuff and Dito as an adult, now played by Robert Downey Jr., returning to Astoria for the first time in years to visit his sick father. It's up to these threads to contextualize and illuminate the engaging (if a little generic) childhood flashbacks. Instead, they cast a haze over the whole movie, a floating cloud of vague therapy for the writer-director-novelist-musician. The gifted Downey, a sleazy American's Johnny Depp, makes the most of his screentime, but only so much can be done with scenes that alternate between minimalist alienation and, later, the kind of heavy melodramatics that make a lot more sense in the summer of his character's youth. The audience is left with plenty of time to fidget and wonder how a cute girl from the neighborhood, now grown-up, looks more like Rosario Dawson after childbirth.

Broader questions than that plague this likable, well-acted film, such as: Why? Why is this a movie, when it almost certainly works better as a novel with more time for all of its characters and atmosphere? The reasons Montiel tries to present in the film's final act feel like fumbling excuses, not reasons for being. I would've been happy, for example, to have been taught how to recognize my saints -- a concept that (not unlike "trainspotting") seems to have been left on the page. That kind of clarity never comes, and I left thinking Montiel might have given himself closure at the expense of the audience.

The DVD includes copious alternate scenes (both ending and beginning), various deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, commentary track, and more.

Saint Shia, anybody?



A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints

Facts and Figures

Run time: 100 mins

In Theaters: Friday 13th October 2006

Box Office USA: $0.4M

Box Office Worldwide: $1.7M

Distributed by: First Look Media

Production compaines: Belladonna Productions, Original Media, Xingu Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Fresh: 71 Rotten: 23

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Dito Montiel

Producer: Charlie Corwin, Clara Markowicz, ,

Starring: as Young Dito, as Young Laurie, as Young Antonio, as Monty, as Aunt Mary, as Laurie, as Dito's Mother, Laila Liliana Garro as Diane (as Laila Liliana), Eleonore Hendricks as Jenny, Adam Scarimbolo as Guiseppe, Federico Castelluccio as Antonio's Father, Robert Downey Jr. as Dito, Chance Kelly as Prison Guard

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.