You almost expect to see Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci at any time during State Of Grace. The influence of Martin Scorsese is everywhere, from the tight shots on character interactions to the slight angles during the more violent scenes. Even the clever use of source music more often than Ennio Morricone’s subtle score is reminiscent of Goodfellas. The prize of this feature is the cast. Ed Harris, Sean Penn, and Gary Oldman add much needed tension and realism to a mediocre and predictable script. Stereotypes and clichés abound. The interwoven elements of violence and pageantry in the film’s climax conjure the ghost of Fannuci from The Godfather Part II.
Terry (Penn) returns to his old neighborhood in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen to find his best friend’s brother Frankie (Harris) has taken over the Irish mob. Frankie is trying to forge an alliance with one of New York’s mafia families at the expense of his own loyal friends and family. Terry has a secret and a decision to make that could bring it all down.
The sound is a decent Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. There isn’t much use of ambient sounds, but the dynamics are surprisingly solid in this mix. Dialogue is almost always centered and easy to hear. The shootouts could use a bit more clever use of the rear channels to better place the viewer in the scene. Highs are reasonably clean. Lows are a little flat but that’s not an issue for most of the film. The mostly source music is well placed and does not distract from the action.
State Of Grace is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer is mostly very clean with some grain, most notably during the frequent night scenes. The original film featured a soft color palette, which is faithfully reproduced here. Darks are convincing if not terribly detailed. One point that studios should make note of is the layer change occurs flawlessly during a scene transition. Why this is not done more frequently is beyond me.
Alas, only a trailer is included in this DVD which is a shame because I was interested enough to want more.
Regular readers of my reviews should know how much I like character study films. There are great moments of that kind of filmmaking here. I found the attempts to copy style a bit distracting, however. This was a pretty good film that could have even been a great one. Its slightly more than 2 hour running time moves pretty well. It’s definitely worth at least a rent. After all, “it’s cheaper than sending a telegram.”