Let’s just get this out of the way: I love “Dude Movies.” You know, “Dude Movies”: heists, violence, drug rings, swearing, undercover cops; testosterone-laden, sometimes sardonic, glorious “Dude Movies”. Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, The Godfather, The Departed, The Usual Suspects, and now to add to my list: Staten Island. I know it looks like a Law and Order made-for-TV spinoff, but since when has a movie poster adequately advertised the actual movie experience?
I originally put this movie on my Instant Queue because it stars Vincent D’onofrio (pronounced Don-AH-free-oh) who is one of my favorite actors. You probably know him as the “bug” from Men in Black, the serial killer in The Cell, Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket (another great “Dude Movie”), or Thor from Adventures in Babysitting.
He is a genuine chameleon and a true method actor. He worked so hard on Law and Order: Criminal Intent he had to alternate every other week with Christopher Noth. Real dedication, so you get your money’s worth.
Little did I know my encounter with Staten Island would instill within me actual respect for Ethan Hawke (Also known as “Handsome Hawke”, member of the Handsome Men’s Club on Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel).
I also was not prepared to put Staten Island on my list of favorite movies, period. Looking back, though, it has a lot of my favorite things: It is written and directed by James DeMonaco (auteur movies tend to go over well with me). It partly focuses around an Italian mob boss and his search for self-fulfillment (it’s not only fun to watch the corrupt side of my heritage, but this plot point is a refreshing, heartfelt twist on a classic “Dude Movie” element). Lastly, it has just enough money behind it to be well-crafted without coming out overdone. Staten Island follows the lives of three men: the aforementioned ambitious mob boss (D’onofrio), a bumbling sewage cleaner (Hawke), and a laconic butcher (Cassel), all who have to deal with leaving a legacy and defeating their victimizers.
Please, please, please see this movie. The cinematography is beautiful, the dialogue well wrought, and the acting superb. It’s a “Dude Movie” with enough originality for even the snobbiest of film students, enough engrossing emotion for the casual moviegoer, plus a self-awareness that gives me hope for the future of cinema. Then again, it is my type of movie: understated, well-paced, and starring Vincent D’onofrio. Watch it and alert me if there is some unwarranted gushing going on!
Let me know how you feel in the comments below!