"Rhythm of the Saints" is a thoroughly unrewarding film that adds moral insult to aesthetic injury by tacitly excusing murder. An inexpressive look at several messed-up lives in the Washington Heights section of New York, Sarah Rogacki's first feature doesn't get inside the heads of any of the characters. Commercial prospects are dim.

“Rhythm of the Saints” is a thoroughly unrewarding film that adds moral insult to aesthetic injury by tacitly excusing murder. An inexpressive look at several messed-up lives in the Washington Heights section of New York, Columbia film grad Sarah Rogacki’s first feature doesn’t get inside the heads of any of the characters, and suffers gravely in comparison to another current picture, Peter Sollett’s “Raising Victor Vargas” (formerly “Long Way Home”), that spotlights a similar social milieu. Commercial prospects are dim.

Although much of the running time is taken up with dull scenes of teens hanging out, main focus of co-producer Cyn Canel Rossi’s script is on Rena (model Daniella Alonso), a slim, sullen 15-year-old Latina, and the grief she gets from her repulsive lech of a stepfather, Ricky (Ivan Martin). When it all gets to be too much, Rena sort of accidentally pops him, but her hitherto oblivious mom (Sarita Choudhury) takes the fall. A fair amount of Santeria ritual is stirred into the mix, but this religious element merely accentuates the reprehensible moral upshot of the ending. Characters and perfs are undistinguished, production values OK.

Rhythm of the Saints

Production

A Cynalex Prods. presentation. Produced by Yvette Tomlinson, Cyn Canel Rossi. Executive producer, Alex Rossi. Directed by Sarah Rogacki. Screenplay, Cyn Canel Rossi.

Crew

Camera (Duart color), Matt Clark; editor, Steven Gonzales; additional editing, Ed Givnish; music, Andrew Hollander; production designer, Dina Goldman; costume designers, Tietjen Fisher, Bridget O'Neill. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Dramatic Competition), Jan. 21, 2003. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Sarita Choudhury, Daniella Alonso, Gano Grills, Ryan Donowho, Ivan Martin, Onahoua Rodriguez, Amatus Karim, Bridget Barkan, Prinya Intachai.
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