Review: State of Grace
Blu-ray: State of Grace (1990)
Released around the same time and overshadowed by the ultimate gangster film ‘Goodfellas’, State of Grace is very different but equally as important.
The plot follows Sean Penn as Terry Noonan, after being involved in a drug deal that goes south, Terry returns to Hell’s Kitchen in NYC where he grew up. There he meets up with real life gang ‘The Westies’ who the story is based on. Old friend and sociopathic criminal Jackie Flannery, an Oscar worthy turn from Gary Oldman who’s brother Frankie (another powerhouse performance from Ed Harris) is the new boss of their crime family. Terry works his way back into the trust of the gang and starts to sink deeper into their world of murder and corruption. Terry hides a secret that could cost him and his new found friends their lives as he struggles with loyalty, morality and his love for Frankie & Jackie’s sister; Kathleen played by Penn’s future wife Robin Wright. If this all sounds familiar then you’re right….and wrong.
If you’ve ever seen ‘Infernal Affairs’ or Scorsese’s ‘remake’ the stunning ‘The Departed’ then you may think you know the best ‘Irish gangster’ film out there. Truth is that State of Grace pre-dates these films by years and is never mentioned in the same breath…baffling.
This is a brilliant, brilliant film, plain and simple. Directed by Phil Joanou (who went on to direct nothing as remarkable as this again, bizarrely) its script is water tight and with a mouth watering ensemble of actors still in their prime, you have a gangster film that really stands the test of time.
Gary Oldman, as we all know, is one of the best actors of any generation. In this film he is literally given free rein to make Jackie Flannery not only wild and violent but vulnerable and emotionally disturbed. How he wasn’t Oscar nominated is beyond me, the same could be said for Ed Harris who is consistently muscular and engrossing in every role he plays. Harris was fresh off Cameron’s ‘The Abyss’ and tears up the screen again with a typically psychotic display. Penn is quiet and reserved as usual and balances the chaos well alongside Wright. Throw in John C. Reilly, Burgess Meredith, John Turturro and a small part for a personal favourite James Russo (Extremities and Dangerous Game).
The score is also worth a mention; Ennio Morricone orchestrates such a beautiful accompaniment to the tragedy of proceedings. Definitely one of his best…so good it’s on my iPod.
‘Directing a bunch of Gangsters’ – This is an excellent feature, Joanou is witty and clearly thrilled to talk about his masterpiece, we get to hear about and see deleted material, hear stories about the cast, the experience of filming and the reaction to the film upon its release.
‘Ed Harris on State of Grace’ – a typically cagey and brief insight from Ed Harris. Still at least he showed up!
State of Grace will be released on August 24th 2015.
Review by Ramrod (co-host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Aim Publicity.