The Narrows (2008) Poster


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TIFF 08: He owns you now…The Narrows
jaredmobarak18 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Call me a sucker, but I highly enjoy films about the criminal underworld of a city like Brooklyn; all those seedy little details that you can imagine actually happening right before your eyes. I was a fan of the short-lived TV series "The Black Donnellys" and really like The Yards and to a lesser extent Sleepers. The new film The Narrows plays with the same types of story lines as these other works, namely centering on one young man, trying to stay good while having one foot in with the mob. Mike Manadoro is that kid, a budding photographer who can't afford the college tuition necessary to hone his skills. His father refuses to let him take loans and so it's either give up his dream, one that the professor he received a partial scholarship from says is accessible, or ask for some more work from Tony, the kingpin of the neighborhood. Already driving and partaking in small menial tasks, the ability to earn more means doing things a bit more dangerous, a job that his father says means he is now Tony's property, to do with what he will. The rest of the film deals with Mike juggling the life he wants with the life he has, one not quite up to par, but needed in order for the future to come to him.

One could argue that this film doesn't offer anything new to the genre, and I would agree. However, just because it uses the same old standards as others that came before it, does not mean it fails. You can only do so much with this type of story, but as long as the acting works and the plot evolves, I'd be hard-pressed to find one I didn't at least enjoy. The Narrows falls into this category, it's a solid movie that may not contain a "wow" factor, but makes up for it with consistent enjoyment. A lot of characters come into play and they all add a little bit to the outcome. This is a tough neighborhood in close proximity with places a bit more affluent then it. Mike is therefore allowed to jump from one world to the other, showing what he could have and what he knows he must come home to. You see, no matter how much he wants to get out, he can't leave his family and friends behind. It's a fine line and Mike isn't afraid to stick by those he loves, whether it's the smart play or not.

Kevin Zegers plays our lead nicely. He has the look and physique of a thug, but the soft-spoken intellect of someone with bigger dreams ahead of his current situation. There are multiple instances where he must choose between worlds and those choices never seem forced. Scheming for his friends, Zegers has a tendency to put them in front of himself. It's the way of the street and definitely prevalent here. Already in a relationship, he meets a fellow photographer in Kathy at school. She is his conduit to a better life, an apartment in the city that appears to be owned by a millionaire, the unconditional love of an outsider willing to be with him for who he is and not where he's from, and a person clean from the world back home. Surprisingly, Sophia Bush does well in the role. She is a pawn to the story, but adds enough emotion and feeling to believe in the relationship and why Mike would risk everything for her.

The real interesting characters come from the little operation in Brooklyn. Tony, at the top of the food chain, is played by Titus Welliver, a man who finally seems to be breaking into Hollywood after a nice run with "Deadwood". Welliver works well as the tough guy, steely eyed and always deadly serious, wiping a laugh away quick so as to never let down his guard. Then there is Michael Kelly's Danny, a Born Again Christian working for the mob. He adds an intriguing dynamic to the group, fodder for jokes and also a sense of morals. Recently returned from war, Nicky Shades, rounds out the main players. Always someone Mike looked up to as a kid, Nicky comes home a different man. The war took away his ability to play football, sending him into a depression that only the drugs can help quell. With a soon to be wife and child on the way, Mike can see a man that has a future, but is just throwing it all away. Eddie Cahill embodies this man, a figure for our lead to watch and see how much he has to live for. Watching the self-destructing nature of someone with similar ideals, but not as many smarts, can only start to keep him from the same path.

Films like The Narrows always follow a similar formula, and nothing is different here. A job will go wrong, people will be accused, someone will try and take out the boss only to be burned himself, and our lead will meet many situations to test his strength and will to survive. I guess the truth of the matter is, I bought into it all. This is really the bottom line—you either accept the clichés or you don't. I really enjoyed the journey all the way through, even when the story decides to surprise us. That surprise involves Mike's father, another eccentrically sound performance from Vincent D'Onofrio. The role really works towards the conclusion nicely, although I do think the way it all turns out is a bit too much, a little bit of a departure to all that came before it; maybe not in terms of story, but definitely in tone. While the film does have comic instances, the hammy, jokey end is a strange pace change that barely keeps on the rails for me. Otherwise, though, you can't ask for much more in a Brooklyn street crime film—it's a sure and steady ride.
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What a gritty surprise "The Narrows"
Chase Tanner3 November 2009
Really good modern New York streetwise gangster movie. The Narrows has a wide range of good acting from the cast, but Titus Welliver as the local mob boss was so good he scared me. Vincent D'Onofrio was as good as he always is, as one of the local underlings & the father of the main character, Mike Manadoro played by Kevin Zegers. Kevin Zegers I had not seen before, but he held his own throughout the flick & I hope to see him again. The rest of the cast helped the movie for me come out as one of those huge surprises you come across when you search through a list of nameless movies to find a sleeper hit & "The Narrows" was just that. Also, Sophia Bush as Mike Manadoro's new upscale girlfriend, well she was just hot. If you have a chance to see this do, it will be well worth your time.

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7 out of 10
Dave (Davo66)31 October 2009
I am not sure if this movie is worth the 8.1 out of 10 it's currently rated at, but its definitely worth a 6 or 7.

This movie takes a long time to get going and doesn't really hit its stride until the last third of the movie.

Vincent D'Onofrio was brilliant in this, Titus Welliver also puts in a good performance, its worth watching this movie just for those two performances alone.

Both of their characters add a little bit of an unexpected twist to the story which makes the payoff of sitting through the whole movie worthwhile.
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An overstuffed sausage of a film
MBunge11 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The Narrows is a great example of how NOT to adapt a novel to the screen. That's because there are a lot of nice elements to this film, but just too blessed many of them. At only 106 minutes long, this movie has at least 10 separate story lines running through it and tries to give each of them roughly equal attention. And since at least 5 of those story lines don't really play a role in the central plot, that means The Narrows spends at least half its screen time on digressions that ultimately go nowhere. Which means the essential elements of this tale go starved for time and attention.

Mike Manadoro (Kevin Zegers) is a Brooklyn kid with a love of photography. He's won a partial scholarship to college and the chance to study with a great photography professor (Roger Rees). But Mike's job at the mobbed-up car service run by Big Lou (Tony Cucci) doesn't pay enough to cover the rest of the cost of school. So when Lou's brother Tony (Titus Welliver), the neighborhood wiseguy, offers Mike a pick up and delivery job that pays $2,000 a week, Mike takes it.

That greatly displeases Mike's father Vinny (Vincent D'Onofrio), a small time bookie who's on disability from his job in sanitation. Vinny's spent most of his life standing on the edges of Tony and Lou's criminal underworld, always holding himself apart. He's an unyielding man whose entire world and self is the neighborhood he's lived in his whole life. Vinny is also disappointed in his son when he compares him to Mike's childhood friend Nicky Shades (Eddie Cahill). Nicky was the hero of the neighborhood growing up until he went away to fight in Afghanistan. Now he's back and fallen so far he needs Mike to vouch for him just to get a job with Lou.

At college, Mike meets and falls in love with Kathy (Sophia Bush), a rich girl from Manhattan who's both attracted and scared by Mike's working class character and dangerous lifestyle. While he's pursuing and bedding Kathy, Mike isn't at all bothered by the fact that he already has a girlfriend from the neighborhood (Monica Keena) who desperately wants to marry him.

As if all that wasn't enough, there's also a subplot involving one of Mike's co-workers sleeping with a slutty married woman, the destruction of Mike's hero worship of Nicky Shades, Tony having to deal with Albanians encroaching on his territory, Mike's struggles with college and, I believe, a partridge in a pear tree.

That is a whole lot of stuff to cram into a 106 minute long film and despite some very admirable efforts, director Francois Velle can't pull it off. The movie just spends too much time on things that ultimately don't matter.

Let met give you an example. At the beginning of the story, Mike's photography is held up as the thing that might get him out of his dead end Brooklyn world. Velle emphasizes that by constantly utilizing photographs and photographic imagery throughout the movie. At the end of the story, however, Mike's photography has become irrelevant. Kathy is the vehicle through which Mike will or won't escape Brooklyn. But when the crucial moment comes for Mike and Kathy, it doesn't mean everything it should because they haven't had enough meaningful time together on screen due to all the other things going on. All the time that was spent on photography, for example, ended up meaning nothing and that was time that could have gone into deepening and complicating Mike and Kathy's relationship so there would be more of an investment when their big moment comes.

As I mentioned, The Narrows is adapted from a book and these filmmakers needed to be much more ruthless is leaving things from the book out of the film. There are the ingredients of something very nice here. Vincent D'Onofrio gives a sterling performance as Vinny, even though the character does get knocked around by the Almighty Plot Hammer a bit. Titus Welliver and Eddie Cahill are also very good, but they have relatively little screen time and can never build up any momentum. Kevin Zegers is a bit bland but perfectly agreeable and the breathy, beautiful Sophia Bush gives just enough grounding to the perfect fantasy that is Kathy. In fact, all of the cast do worthwhile work in their roles. There's simply too many of them doing too many things that don't contribute to the whole of the movie.

This certainly isn't a bad film and it's largely enjoyable, but it ends in an anti-climatic emotional and thematic spiral that left me unsatisfied. Your mileage may vary, but no matter how much you may like it, I am pretty sure you'll come away thinking The Narrows could have been even better.
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an intelligent mobster fable
drjoseph19 January 2010
Most of the films of this genre are hackneyed remakes of classics with nothing new to add except a new face here and there. This film is obviously tailored to an intelligent novel and the acting is surprisingly tight. Donofrio is outstanding as the bitter old numbers runner who can't seem to get over the death of is saintly Italian wife; not too many clichés there, huh? But he pulls it off with the panache only he can bring to a role. Huzzah for you, Mr. Vincent, you did it again. But as the lead, Kevin Zegers steals the show. Where has this kid been? He is believable, beautiful and serious. I know that the established critics bombed this film, but that's never swayed me all that much. I watch a lot of films and this one, though far from a ten, is a solid seven.
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A good try...
yc95524 January 2010
It would have been better had they casted a different lead in this movie. The story is way too soapish and too straight-to-DVD - everything is so typical and predictable that it's boring. It's a 6 because of the father's acting, and perhaps the mob boss as well. He's so much better than in "Law and Order", which really is insulting his talent as an actor. The son probably is the only actor that really fits this movie - a straight to DVD/soap opera type of role with matching talent for it - too obvious, too superficial, and too enthusiastically played out. I completely disagree with the other reviewer - I won't miss this guy's acting in the future at all.

Try The Bronx Story by De Niro et al. Now that's a worthy movie with real interesting story to tell.
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Surprisingly good
Cedric_Catsuits12 August 2013
This didn't sound too appealing to me and there are no big names in the cast, but I have to say it is a gripping and enjoyable story. The acting is superb and the relationships between the characters well thought out.

It's not emotionally draining so to that extent perhaps it lacks a bit of depth, but even so you get to sympathize with the plight of people who don't really fit into the rapidly changing world. The brutality comes with morality albeit not in a conventional form, and there is a sense that everything will turn out OK if you live by that code.

A regular college kid whose job is not waiting tables or flipping burgers, but following in the family tradition of gangland crime, is a fascinating take on a familiar theme, and it works really well.

Not too demanding but very enjoyable with some fantastic performances.
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THE NARROWS should appeal to a wider audience
charlytully1 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Among the people who might enjoy this movie are those who like to read a novel, and then see the film made from it. THE NARROWS is based on a Tim McLoughlin novel entitled HEART OF THE OLD COUNTRY. McLoughlin himself is one of six cast and crew members interviewed for more than 90 minutes (!) on the DVD extras. Obviously, another group of folks who may appreciate the flick are those who like to see their entertainment dissected and talked to death (perhaps they do not have lives of their own?).

In addition to the pair of movie-watching types described above, fans of local color may enjoy THE NARROWS. Though I did not find the cast wallowing in the Brooklynese dialect, perhaps the filmmakers decided not to force the rest of the U.S. to view this yarn with subtitles. Furthermore, people curious to find out was a New York City "car service" consists of might be well-advised to check out THE NARROWS.

Finally, fans of Kevin Zegers, Sophia Bush, and Vincent D'Onofrio will find their approach to their craft fully explicated on the aforementioned DVD interview extras. Further, those who have watched Eddie Cahill as Det. Don Flack on CSI: NEW Y0RK the past few seasons will find Cahill's Nicky Shades character in THE NARROWS illuminating, in a kind of haunting way.
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lesser mob indie
SnoopyStyle3 January 2016
Mike Manadoro (Kevin Zegers) lives with his father Vinny (Vincent D'Onofrio) in Brooklyn. His friend Nicky Shades (Eddie Cahill) returns from war with a dark edge. Mike's photography gets him a partial scholarship to NYU. He falls for fellow student Kathy Popovich (Sophia Bush) despite having neighborhood girlfriend Gina Abruzzi (Monica Keena). He starts doing odd jobs driving for local mob guy Tony (Titus Welliver). His father is angry with him working for Tony.

This is reminiscent of well-used material from better movies. It's an indie in need of better cinematic style and better music. It's more in the line of a good-looking TV movie. Zegers is a perfectly functional young leading man. He has just enough charisma and Bush is a hottie. However the story meanders without much tension. It takes a long time for the movie to raise the danger level. The dialog is a bit lackluster except when D'Onofrio shows up. It tries to go to a darker place but it never shocks. The whole movie needs to be tightened up a bit and concentrate on the father son relationship. More D'Onofrio would really help.
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