Review: ‘Brooklyn Bound’

First-time helmer Rich Devaney's day-in-the-life of a drug dealer may lack the depth and scope of Spike Lee's "The 25th Hour," but "Brooklyn Bound" nevertheless boasts its own low-rent charms. The very factors that contribute to pic's lean and lucid look could easily have resulted in amateurish incoherence: The scenario is based on a true story, the scripter himself essays the lead role, and the pic was shot on location in the projects. Yet thesping and lensing feel immediate and convincing, and storyline's well-paced arc takes no prisoners. Without star power, "Brooklyn" seems bound for cable yet it could definitely withstand theatrical scrutiny.

A correction was made to this review on May 28, 2004.

First-time helmer Rich Devaney’s day-in-the-life of a drug dealer may lack the depth and scope of Spike Lee’s “The 25th Hour,” but “Brooklyn Bound” nevertheless boasts its own low-rent charms. The very factors that contribute to pic’s lean and lucid look could easily have resulted in amateurish incoherence: The scenario is based on a true story, the scripter himself essays the lead role, and the pic was shot on location in the projects. Yet thesping and lensing feel immediate and convincing, and storyline’s well-paced arc takes no prisoners. Without star power, “Brooklyn” seems bound for cable yet it could definitely withstand theatrical scrutiny.

Sean (Tommy Guiffre), a modest, well-established white drug dealer, has carved out a comfortable, relatively stable existence: a nice apartment, a decent, caring woman (Nicole Arlyn), longtime friends and a solid relationship with dealers and suppliers. Of course his mother (Christie Sanford) is schizophrenic and his younger brother (David Ley) hangs with the homies smoking grass all day, but things could certainly be worse — as a series of events will subsequently prove.

In short order, Sean’s mother lands in the hospital, his pregnant girlfriend walks out on him, his best friend (Nick Amatrano) runs up an insurmountably huge gambling debt, and his brother’s entrepreneurial debut as an indie drug dealer goes seriously south. Sean, realizing that the job that supports his family also jeopardizes them, decides to do what every criminal in every movie ever made decides to do — score one last big deal.

Pic’s down times are as full of unexpected twists and turns as are Sean’s daily criminal chores; potentially loaded situations turn out to overflow with the milk of human kindness while everyday encounters unexpectedly turn mean and nasty.

In Devaney’s aesthetic, character ultimately trumps action. While the seduction of sullen kid brother Keith by a shyly smitten teen (Nisa Ward) is crucial to the plot, the occasion also marks Keith’s discovery of recreational and spiritual possibilities beyond dope.

Acting is first-rate throughout. Devaney casts experienced thesps like Dean Winters and Chuck Zito as fully entrenched gangsters to economically suggest a whole world of established crime. Scripter Guiffre conveys an Anthony LaPaglia-like brooding solidity, and Ley does callowness to a tee. Lensing by Igor Marinovic is spare and uncluttered, while editors C. Andrew Bauer and Robert Mead propel the story cleanly.

Brooklyn Bound

Production

A Mean Pictures production in association with Esquire Films. Produced by Rich Devaney, C. Andrew Bauer. Executive producers, Sean Casey, Joseph DiMarco, George Priola, Chris Champeau. Directed by Rich Devaney. Screenplay by Thomas Guiffre, Devaney from a story by Guiffre.

Crew

Camera (color), Igor Marinovic; editors, C. Andrew Bauer, Robert Mead; sound, Bauer. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (NY, NY), May 3, 2004. Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Tommy Guiffre, Nicole Arlyn, David Ley, Dean Winters, David Zayas, Chuck Zito, Christie Sanford, Christopher Amitrano, Nisa Ward.
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