- Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Shia LaBeouf
- Summary: A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is writer/director Dito Montiel's candid debut capturing his youth in the mid-1980s in the toughest neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. Exuding the rawness and authenticity of such classic urban dramas as "Kids," "Mean Streets," "Do the Right Thing" and "Saturday Night Fever," the film is based on Montiel's memoir of the same name. (First Look Pictures)… Expand
- Director: Dito Montiel
- Genre(s): Drama, Crime
- More Details and Credits »
Marco10Unbelievably beauty, strange poetics, daring choices of voices filtering over scenes and a story that is hard to follow, but draws you in enough to blow your mind away in the end. It seems at time out of balance, but that is the beauty of it. and for some really weird reason, the ending, the compassion, the sincere deeply heartfelt empathy made me even shed a tear.… Expand
Dito Montiel's A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints takes the style and approach similar to Robert De Niro's A Bronx Tale and Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, which both overshadow this film for their grandscale look on issues and the exploration into certain relationships and how they grow and decimate over time. All three films possess common attributes; all three take place in a part of New York, they are directed by first-timers, they are stories that the men hold close to their hearts, all utilize the storytelling method of narration or breaking the fourth wall in some way, and they focus on a large group of characters all with something to say. Whether it's worth hearing or not is up to you.
A Bronx Tale effected me in a way that totally came out of left field. By delivering its brutal honesty with cold, authentic realism was audacious and showcasing three exquisite talents (one of them, Chazz Palminteri, present here), it delivered a coming of age drama, deeper and more reliant on values than any one I've previously seen. Do the Right Thing was a crisp, lively drama relying on racial tensions and impending chaos that would ensue from enduring a brutally hot day in Brooklyn. Spike Lee brilliantly concocted tension through character development and human conversation, and almost implying, throughout the course of the entire film, that no character did "the right thing." But whatever your definition of the right thing was, you could disagree with me.
Montiel is more interested with telling his story more than tacking on a fancy moral or showing any deep, subversive element in particular, which is perfectly fine with me. His close-to-home story is buoyant on its own, relying on strong performances from charismatic leads and is elevated by bright, humid, and mercilessly seamy cinematography. Montiel himself is our protagonist, played in his later years by Robert Downey Jr., a successful writer, yet absent family-man, Dito's mother calls him one day, twenty years after leaving behind his home in Queens, to return home to convince his father (Chazz Palminteri) to go to the hospital after falling gravely ill. Upon returning home, he sees Queens isn't much different, still crime-infested and relatively unprotected from the destructive youth and the passive adults, but notices that his longtime friends' ambitions of being lawless and as juvenile as possible have surged into adulthood.
This story is spliced with flashbacks from 1986, the year when Dito (Shia LeBeouf) abandoned everything he erected in Queens, when Dito was only concerned about hanging with his friends Antonio (Channing Tatum), Laurie (Melonie Diaz), and Mike (Martin Compston), causing trouble and wreaking havoc. The film casually follows the youth's events and run-ins with relationships, sexual encounters, conversations, and troubled instances, and often showing their home-lifes as the least of their concerns.
Palminteri gives a wonderful performance here, confidently lax, yet remarkably genuine and subdued, often providing his son Dito with father-like guidance that often gets ignored when the going gets tough. When Dito is seen in present time, he is unforgiven by his father who views his move to leave home not noble and commendable, like some would, but rather shameful and deviant. He views his son's return home as no more than a cop out move, somewhat more shameful than him leaving. His offer to make amends feels forced and trite and he ain't buying it.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints consistently maintains a gritty atmosphere and always feels alive and raw, even when it's at its calmest times. The performances, mainly from LeBeouf, Tatum, Downey Jr., Palminteri, and Rosario Dawson, who could've benefited from more screentime, use the story's difficult themes of family relations and devotions to their favor, and never does much of this lack genuine feeling, thanks to Mantiel manning the camera and working the pen on this project. To call this film "solid" would be sort of an understatement, yet to call this "groundbreaking" or even "wonderful" would be a bit much. I'll go with "meaningful:" seems to meet them halfway.
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Shia LaBeouf, Rosario Dawson, Melonie Diaz, Chazz Palminteri, Martin Compston, Eric Roberts, Channing Tatum, Dianne Wiest. Directed by: Dito Montiel.… Expand
PaulK.7I enjoyed this more as it went on, but the beginning and what becomes the past in flashbacks needed tighter editing, more focus, in particular with dialogue. A few chaotic scenes overloaded with expletives is fine, but the beginning ultimately drowns in it's redundancy. More character development and a stronger conflict between the father and son would have put this one over the top. Still, this is worth a look on video.… Expand
KenG4The story and the characters feel very standard for movies from this genre. I felt like I've seen it all many times before. Nothing is done here to make it rise above the pedestrian feel. I'm also getting kind of tired of movies where everybody is miserable, yet the script can't be bothered to suppy enough reason for the characters to as misable as they are. Where the characters are all unhappy, just because of this idea that characters are supposed to be unhappy in movies. Sometimes one of the movies, of which I speak, is done well enough to carry it off, this wasn't one of those times.… Expand