A Brooklyn State of Mind

Afamiliar cocktail of loyalty, betrayal, brutality and retribution in a crime-plagued Italo-American neighborhood where traditional, old-world values are being replaced by ruthlessness and greed, "A Brooklyn State of Mind" is dramatically functional but has little to add to the well-trodden genre. Frank Rainone's engrossing enough drama should turn up on cable but lacks the spark to cut it in theaters. Still troubled by the senseless murder of his father 20 years earlier, Al (Vincent Spano) works for shady real estate developer Frank Parente (Danny Aiello), delivering kickbacks, collecting payments and conducting small-time thefts with his hotheaded sidekick, Nicky (Ricky Aiello). When his aunt (Morgana King) rents an upstairs room to mysterious Gabriella (Maria Grazia Cucinotta), who claims to be shooting a documentary on Brooklyn, Al is suspicious at first, but eventually succumbs to romance.

As Gabriella’s observations of the neighborhood’s poverty, crooked dealings and racial disharmony begin to get under Parente’s skin, he orders Nicky to search her room. He discovers a video dossier on Parente, which he shows to Al. Confronting Gabriella, Al learns that her black father was killed in an act of random retaliation following the murder of his own father, which was wrongfully attributed to black thrill-seekers.

Meanwhile, Parente attempts to persuade local bar-owner Louie (Tony Danza) to make his premises available to his drug-dealing associates. When Louie refuses and is subsequently killed, Al learns the truth about Parente’s involvement in this and his father’s murder.

Although his character’s conflicts over his desire for an honest life are poorly drawn, Spano is sympathetic. In her first English-language role, “Il Postino” siren Cucinotta is adequate but not entirely comfortable with the dialogue. Aiello has played minor variations on this character before — most recently in “City Hall” — with better results. Rainone keeps the pace even, but fails to distinguish the sub-Scorsese material from countless other similarly themed dramas.

A Brooklyn State of Mind


  • Production: A Norstar Entertainment production in association with Storm Entertainment. (International sales: Norstar, Toronto.) Produced by Peter R. Simpson. Executive producers, Vincent Viola, Michael Heuser. Co-producers, Elan Sassoon, Jason Goldberg. Directed by Frank Rainone. Screenplay, Rainone, Frederick Stroppel
  • Crew: Camera (color), Ken Kelsch; editor, Nick Rotundo; music, Paul J. Zaza; production design, William Barclay; art direction, Mark Ricker; costume design, Kim Marie Druce; sound (Dolby), Jeff Pullman; line producer, Lemore Syvan; assistant director, Alan Heusson. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 13, 1997. Running time: 87 MIN.
  • With: Al ..... Vincent Spano Gabriella ..... Maria Grazia Cucinotta Frank Parente ..... Danny Aiello Nicky ..... Ricky Vetrino Uncle Guy ..... Abe Vigoda Louie ..... Tony Danza Aunt Rose ..... Morgana King
  • Music By: