Where have we heard this before? A kid growing up among Brooklyn Italians has to choose between the mob and college, romances a bewildered Juliet from outside the 'hood, has a buddy who's unhinged and gets embroiled in matters of honor, guns and patriarchy.

Where have we heard this before? A kid growing up among Brooklyn Italians has to choose between the mob and college, romances a bewildered Juliet from outside the ‘hood, has a buddy who’s unhinged and gets embroiled in matters of honor, guns and patriarchy. It’s all part of “The Narrows,” a seventh-generation copy, not just of “Mean Streets,” but even of ’30s-era James Cagney films. With its less-than-charismatic cast (except Vincent D’Onofrio), this drama, unlike its characters, should have trouble getting arrested.

Helmer Francois A. Velle and screenwriter Tatiana Blackington (adapting a Tim McLoughlin novel) have created the pulpiest of fictions about Mike Manadoro (Kevin Zegers), a would-be art photographer whose father (D’Onofrio) is a small-time numbers runner in Brooklyn. Needing cash for college, Mike takes a job making suspicious deliveries for the local mobsters, and reunites with Nicky (a woefully miscast Eddie Cahill), an Afghani war vet with a morphine problem. Sophia Bush plays the new girl in his life, and D’Onofrio has one great scene near the end of the film, but it’s not enough to deliver all these sinners from banality. Production values are quite good.

The Narrows

Production

A Serenade Films production, in association with Mr. Nice and Olympus Pictures. (International sales: Eastgate Pictures, New York.) Produced by Leslie Urdang, Ami Armstrong, Tatiana Blackington. Executive producers, Michael Nozik, Todd James, Dean Vanech, Daniel Revers, Nicolas Velle, Michael Hoffman. Directed by Francois A. Velle. Screenplay, Tatiana Blackington, based on the novel "The Heart of the Old Country" by Tim McLoughlin.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Seamus Tierney; editor, Patrick Gallagher; music, Richard Marvin; production designer, Aleta Shaffer. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 9, 2008. Running time: 106 MIN.

With

Kevin Zegers, Vincent D'Onofrio, Sophia Bush, Eddie Cahill, Titus Welliver, Monica Keena.
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