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Aside from being a great, dark film, with a substantial plot line and a
GIANT cast (Oldman, Penn, and Harris), this is an
Oldman performance not to be believed. Mr. Oldman himself
been quoted as saying that "State of Grace" is HIS favourite
performance. And, as usual, he gives a performance to
equalled by none.
Sean Penn is marvelous, too, and Harris portrays evil incarnate.
This film should be re-evaluated, and Gary Oldman should have received the Oscar for it. His portrayal of Jackie Flannery, a wild, violent young gangster with an ethereal tender streak - is simply phenomenal.
I'm shocked that I've been a film fan for many years, and have only
just seen this gem! In a world where The Godfather and Goodfellas are
at the top of most people's lists of favourites, it's hard to believe
that a film as strong as State of Grace could be so criminally under
seen. The film is about love, friendship and betrayal; and takes place
in New York's infamous Hell's Kitchen. The fact that it was released in
the same year as Martin Scorsese's more acclaimed 'Goodfellas' probably
didn't do it many favours; but if you ask me, this is the better film.
Boasting a strong cast, director Phil Joanou's film follows
Irish-American Terry Noonan as he returns home after an absence of ten
years. He soon hooks up with his old friends, including Jackie and his
brother Frankie; who is now the head of the Irish mafia. However, it
doesn't take long before Terry's rekindled relationship with his old
friends and his new loyalties to another party become at odds with one
another, and our hero soon finds himself torn between the two.
State of Grace has all the violence, foul language and hot-headed characters that are part and parcel of this sort of film; but at its core is a very well worked plot, bolstered by some great characterisation. The characters are the main focus point in this film, and it's through their motivations that the plot is allowed to move. A film that puts so much focus on its characters needs a strong cast in order to work, and this film certainly has that. Sean Penn takes the lead role and delivers an early version of the strong lead performance that would go on to earn him high praise from the critics. He is supported by the underrated Ed Harris, who grows on me more and more every time I see him, in the film's most level-headed role - but the real star of the show is Gary Oldman. This actor has the ability to completely steal any film that he's in, and he really does stand out here; delivering what is surely one of his all-time best performances. Familiar faces such as John Turturro, John C. Reilly and Robin Wright Penn do well; but it's the main trio that take home all the acting plaudits. Hell's Kitchen is beautifully brought to the screen in the most downtrodden manner possible, and the music and atmosphere combine with the shockingly realistic violence to ensure that the film is always gritty and unrelenting. State of Grace comes with high recommendations.
.....up to and maybe including walk on water? Oldman is so utterly and completely Jackie Flannery in this film, you might be tempted to dismiss his performance as 'playing to type'. Until you see this inspired chameleon's other work, where he IS Lee Harvey Oswald or TRUE ROMANCE's Drexl or Joe Orton or - tell you what, YOU pick the role. Oldman inhales, and the character he's portraying exhales. (And this is not to shortshrift the incredible work offered by Penn, Harris, Wright, Reilly and the rest of this film's ensemble.) It's disgraceful that Hollywood can't think of anything better to do with this brilliant and courageous actor these days than 'villain roles' in big-budget comic books like LOST IN SPACE, but when he's working with material commensurate to his skill, he's without peer. When an actor pushes himself like this, takes risks like this, you become aware that there can be no nobler profession. Gary Oldman may not be 'box office', and now and then he may even crash and burn...but when he flies, he soars higher than any performer presently working. For Pete's sake, see this movie and everything else he's done.
The credits have just begun rolling on what has been my 7th full viewing of State of Grace. (This number doesn't count the times I've watched it after having missed some portion of the film.) I first saw this film as a rental some time around 1992, and it has not lost a bit of its relevance. It is nothing short of mesmerizing. Every time I watch it I'm pulled in completely. The performances are the reason this is one of my all-time favorite films. Gary Oldman was so convincing that I was surprised the first time I heard him speak in his native dialect. His performance in this film, as in virtually every film he's been in, was a thesis on acting. Sean Penn turned in a masterful performance that was complex and nuanced. And Ed Harris displayed his usual laser beam intensity. Everyone in this ensemble piece resonated perfectly to create this vivid story. I hope this film comes to be recognized as the classic I already believe it is.
Once in a while a movie comes along that is a gift for an actor. It is
like a golden opportunity that has been given to them, but there is a
they have to deliver. Three actors were given that opportunity
in State of Grace: Ed Harris, Gary Oldman and Sean Penn. All three
deliver performances that easily merit a Best Actor Oscar, but it is
the chemistry between Penn and Oldman that issue forth true gold.
Oldman completely and utterly loses himself in the role of Jackie
Flannery, a small-time Irish gangster that happens to be the younger,
impulsive, reckless brother of the head boss of the Irish mob in Hell's
Kitchen, Frank Flannery. Frank is brokering a deal with the Italian
Cosa Nostra that will result in a major windfall of money and power for
the much smaller gang of Irish mobsters. Frank is one of the only
people who seems to understand how important this deal is, while the
rest of the gang bristles against the direction of the much more
powerful and organized Mafia. Every time it looks like the deal will go
through, some member of Frank's gang does something stupid to insult
the Italians, and each time this happens Frank is called upon (by the
Italians) to do their retribution upon his own people.
In the midst of this very dangerous situation enters Terry Noonan (Sean Penn), Jackie's best friend from childhood who is now a cop and undercover with the directive to do no less than take down Frank's entire gang. In the beginning Terry seems eager to do his job, but as the reality of what he must do comes crashing down he is torn between his love for his old friend, and his duty as a policeman. This is further complicated by the fact that Jackie's sister Kathleen (Robin Wright Penn) and Terry were childhood sweethearts. As Terry renews his relationship with both Jackie and Kathleen he begins to lose his identity and his soul as he is torn apart by the things he must do as a policeman, what he sees being done by Frank and his gang, and his deepening relationship with Kathleen.
Oldman delivers an explosive performance and he seems to become even more unhinged and unpredictable each moment that he and Penn spend together. The true beauty of his performance is the fact that we know how intelligent Oldman is; yet he is totally believable as this half-witted madman who is rushing towards his own demise. It is Penn though that has the heavy lifting to do, because he doesn't have the luxury of hiding behind the frenetic machinations that Oldman's character does. You actually feel pain as you watch Terry get in deeper and deeper, drinking more and more, sleeping less and less, losing his direction and his mind.
The music by Ennio Morricone is haunting, brooding and electrifying; perfectly suited to the evolving story on screen. As we watch Terry betray his friends and himself, it seems as if pieces of him actually float away, carried on the wings of Morricone's music. Robin Wright Penn also delivers as a young woman who is desperately trying to escape the mean streets of the Kitchen, the violent world of her brothers, and her meager upbringing. She also underestimated what being with Terry would mean, especially after learning Terry's true identity. She is sucked back into what she has tried so hard to become free of, and must watch as her family and Terry disintegrates.
The entire movie is set upon a collision course between Terry and Frank, and when they finally collide, director Phil Joanou films it almost like a dream sequence. The power of this film is how it manages to so vividly portray one man's attempt to finally confront his past and his own character flaws. All of us have demons and we promise and strive to finally confront them, but do we ever? Facing our fears is one thing, but the true measure of a person's character is how we perform when that fear stares into us, face to face. Here, Terry comes full circle and finally confronts the demons of his youth, and the showdown might cost his life.
Watch this film for the terrific performances of all the lead actors, for the fantastic music, the frenetic action, and the moving drama, but watch it also to ask yourself, what are your demons, when will you finally face them and what will happen when you do?
Simply put, this movie is perfect. I live in NYC and the general air of it is caught perfectly on film. The people, the places, everything. I especially like the bluish tint used over a lot of the film. It definitely adds to the mood. The performances are incredible, even Burgess Meredith in the couple of minutes that he has onscreen. Sean Penn and Ed Harris together create an unbelievable amount of tension. I have to give them both kudos and especially Robin Wright, who turns in an excellent performance as the frustrated love interest who's connection to the life follows her no matter how far uptown she moves. No surprise when I say that Gary Oldman takes the cake for this one. He manages to outshine everyone around him, just like he did in the Professional. His performance is the driving force behind this movie and it is worth watching just to catch this legend in the making in one of his earlier roles. I cannot find one flaw in this movie and the slow motion finale is among the top five ending sequences ever. Every viewing reveals something else, something to make you appreciate this film even more. Catch this one if you haven't seen it, you won't be disappointed. My only regret is that I didn't see it while it was in theatrical release. One of the best gangster flicks, period. Rating: ***** out of *****.
You don't need to be a film genius to realise the gangster thriller is as
old as cinema itself, although by the Seventies, it was looking a little
ragged around the edges.
The Godfather revitalised the genre and then things grew quiet again in the land of wise talking hoods and their molls.
Hollywood has always been a place where trends mean a host of movies with the same theme all opening within a few months of each other. After body swap comedies and underwater thrillers in the late Eighties, the turn of the Nineties saw the turn of the post modern gangster drama.
So we had a third helping of The Godfather, Goodfellas, Billy Bathgate, Mobsters, the sublime Miller's Crossing and one of the best of the bunch - State of Grace.
The drama centres on a band of low-level Irish-American hoods who operate in the Hell's Kitchen area of New York City. Rising rents are forcing them out of the neighbourhood, so needless to say, yuppies are not their favourite breed.
Sean Penn is Terry Noonan, a New York cop who used to live in the area, and has been on the road for a few years.
Now he's back and glad to see his old mate Jackie Flannery (Gary Oldman). But inflitrating his band of ne'er do wells soon leads to unbearable dramatic tension and a finale which will leave you hooked.
While Sean has always been an okay actor, Gary blows him off the screen as Flannery, the Irish American gangster who keeps severed hands in his fridge so he can use the fingerprints on his firearms.
Before Oldman started making big budget confections such as Lost in Space, The Fifth Element and Air Force One, he really proved himself in roles such as this.
A self-confessed alcoholic, he never let the booze get in the way of delivering a knockout performance - although by the time he made the dreadful Scarlet Letter, Gary decided to give the sauce a rest and concentrate on his acting.
One of the reasons that Oldman is one of the most sought after actors in the world is his utterly manic style mixed with a conviction that can chill you to the bone.
Although his performance here isn't quite as focused as corrupt DEA officer, Norman Stansfield in Leon, there's still enough menace in Flannery to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention.
For example: There's a scene in which Flannery takes Noonan along one night when he burns down a construction office on a site that will soon be a yuppie apartment building. Oldman's character decides to make arson fun by pouring the petrol between himself and the door - and then see if he can run through it without killing himself.
Yes, Noonan really is that unhinged but while some actors would have used such pyrotechnics as a dramatic crutch, Gary makes you believe the scene was shot for real.
The supporting cast is also pretty good. Ed Harris has always been excellent value for money in The Abyss and The Rock. Here he is on fine form as the mob leader, and Jackie's brother, Frankie, who attempts to reign in his errant sibling. While the only woman in the film, Robin Wright, is wasted as the love interest, don't worry girls. This is not just a film for the lads.
Ennio Morricone's haunting score perfectly accentuates Phil Joanou's direction and as the title suggests, there is a state of grace to the drama which makes it one of the most under rated big screen gems of the last decade.
Written by Dennis McIntyre (his only screenplay sadly) and photographed by the legendary Jordan Cronenweth of Blade Runner fame, this dark fairytale of New York will haunt many for weeks to come.
"State Of Grace" is a film loosely based on the story of the "Westies", the
New York Hells Kitchen Irish mob that thrived during the 70s and early 80s.
This gang of hoods was extremely violent and unpredictable, and even gave
most of the Italian Mafioso (who far outnumbered them) the jitters. Gary
Oldman is phenomenal in this film. He is a highly versatile actor in a class
by himself, or at the very least, belongs with the likes of Olivier and
DeNiro, in that Oldman has proven himself in a wide range of diverse roles
besides this one (e.g., in "JFK" as Lee Harvey Oswald, in Dracula as the
title role, and even in "Lost In Space" as Dr. Smith). If nothing else, see
it for him. But kudos must also go to Sean Penn and Ed Harris for their
excellent performances as well. Sean Penn in particular was very well cast.
The story is believable, the atmosphere is realistic, and the acting keeps
you on the edge of your seat. A very good modern-day crime
Yeah, I love this film. Ever since I saw it at a preview screening, this has been one of my favorites. I said then Gary Oldman should get nominated for Best Supporting Actor and he should have been, except nobody saw this movie, probably because Orion didn't promote this movie at all. All of the leads are awesome. Sean Penn is so messed up and confused, and the hints that he's having trouble with all the drinking are a nice touch. Ed Harris does so much with so little. There's one scene where you can almost see him literally blow his top. By the end, the effects of each different subplot can be seen on each other, all coming together for one climactic moment. And the ending--I get chills from the music. See this movie. Then tell everyone you know.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Its hard to actually comment on which actor gave the best performance in
this great film, because everyone in it gave a career best. Ed Harris(The
Rock) was incredible as the bad guy boss with equally astounding
performances by Gary Oldman(Lost In Space) and Sean Penn(At Close
The story is great. Irish undercover cop Penn returns to his hometown to catch up with the goings on with the Irish mob. Falls in love with old flame(Robin Wright Penn) and meets up with old friends-Oldman, John C Reilly(River Wild) and Oldman's brother, Harris.
The fight scenes are amazing, the dialogue is very smart and the love scenes between him and his real life future wife Robin Wright are so believable.
On a whole there is no denying that this film deserved more recognition than it actually got. Rating=5/5
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