In Providence's Italian neighborhood, Federal Hill, five young men face their choices as they become adults. Bobby, who's sort of dim, owes $30,000 to a counterfeiter who's demanding ...
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In Providence's Italian neighborhood, Federal Hill, five young men face their choices as they become adults. Bobby, who's sort of dim, owes $30,000 to a counterfeiter who's demanding payment; he asks Ralph, a gifted cat burglar, to help and Ralph comes up with a plan. Later, Frank's dad, who is one of the Hill's top mobsters, wants to have a talk with Ralph about some of this plan. Meanwhile, Ralph's best friend Nicky falls hard for Wendy, a rich blond from Brown, and Nicky begins to imagine a future with her away from Providence. Ralph thinks Nicky's making a big mistake and sets out to prove it. When Ralph insults Frank's dad, things come to a head.Written by
Originally shot and released in theaters in black and white; distributor required the film to be colorized for the video release, against director Michael Corrente's will, making it the only film made by a still-living director to be colorized. Both versions (colour and B/W) are now available on video. See more »
Better and more interesting than it would appear at first glance
Ralph and Nicky are friends but are very much like brothers, the former a small-time crook, the latter a street drug dealer in Federal Hill. Both are close and part of a group of young men who hang around on the fringes of society but very much part of the neighbourhood. Nicky's relationship with promising college student Wendy offers him more than it seemed he had ahead of him. Meanwhile their cousin finds his outstanding debts are coming back on him as the lenders start to call it in and he turns to Ralph for help, putting him in the pot against some of the biggest men in the neighbourhood.
Filmed in grainy black and white, this film was based on a short play by Corrente and does a good job of painting life in Federal Hill while also delivering a fairly interesting couple of stories. It helps that Corrente has a personal insight into the community and the characters because it does add to the material and makes it better than it could have been. On one level I can see why some viewers dismiss it as a cheap Italian "boys in the hood" because if you glance at it without thought then that is probably what you'll surmise it to be. However if you watch it there is more to this than just a simple collection of small time Italian American hoods. The trap of the community is well portrayed in the main thread involving Nicky and Wendy as contrasted with Ralph's refusal to aspire to more than what he was born into.
This also could appear a simple narrative arch but it is strengthen by convincing characters. The relationship between Nicky and Ralph is interesting for what is on the surface as well as what is unsaid. Some have commented that the scene of gay-bashing was unnecessary and gratuitous but on the contrary I felt it helped establish an element of restrained and denied sexuality within Ralph. This never becomes more than a subtext but it does enrich the character somewhat. Outside of him the rest do fit into the clichés one would expect but they are still well done and the film relies less on Bobby, Fredo and Joey than it does on Nicky and Ralph. Corrente's direction is good and his cinematographer captures a convincing neighbourhood without using too much unnatural style. Good performances are drawn from the main cast. DeSanto is solid in the lead even if he does struggle at times to convince in some regards. Turturro has a better character to work with and his performance is strong throughout and probably one of the best I have seen him give. Support from Langdon is OK while Raynor, Turano, Vincent and others do good background characters that fit with the story.
Overall then this is not a brilliant perfect film but it is certainly much more than what I thought it was going to be. At first glance the plot is like a Mean Streets copy but this is smarter than that and while painting a convincing community it delivers a couple of characters that are more complex than they appear and hold the interest as a result. The performances mainly do what is required but a couple are better than that in particular a layered delivery from Turturro as Ralph.
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