Making your first feature film ain't easy. Assemble a decent, if not strong, cast, as writer/director Robert Moresco has done with One Eyed King, and you're already ahead of the game. But rehash old plot lines, tired dialogue, and standard clichés, and a well-intentioned effort such as this one could jeopardize your chance at a second feature film.
How many more movies do we need about a rough neighborhood full of lifelong friends hopelessly turned to crime or worse? The enormous catalog of such movies might dissuade a filmmaker from making yet another, but here we have it. Again. Five Irish kids in NYC's Hell's Kitchen make an overemotional pact over some stolen rings on an anonymous rooftop. With teary music. And slow motion. In the film's first scene.
The kids grow up to be fairly worthless adults, unable or unwilling to make their way out of the heat of the Kitchen. Leading the clueless pack is William Baldwin as a good-hearted guy who watches out for his buddies and is in tight with local mob head Armand Assante. I'd like to say that his character gets involved over his head in some sort of blah, blah, blah, but all we seem to get are little tastes of possible plot points. He's concerned about buddy Jason Gedrick's heroin abuse. He sticks up for Jim Breuer after he impregnates Baldwin's character's sister. He looks into who might be pushing the most moronic-looking counterfeit cash ever made (a genuinely funny touch). But none of this ever really amounts to anything.
It seems that Moresco's greater concern is to provide that intangible "slice of life", that flavor of the neighborhood that everyone's been trying to evoke since Scorsese's early work. So, we get the drunk guys, hugging and singing together at the local bar, to prove to us that they really love each other. (Do people actually do this!?) We get a lot of tough street talk -- usually mumbled for effect -- and a whole lot of the F-word, whether it sounds like it fits or not.
We also get a handful of good actors in small roles that seem to lack purpose. Bruno Kirby, Chazz Palminteri, you know, guys you've seen in movies just like this one before. Assante is intelligent casting as the man that everyone fears, and Baldwin's performance is adequate, but most of the rest of the cast jump into the tough guy persona so thoroughly that it's almost funny.
Moresco, a theater guy and sometimes TV writer (including the series Falcone), obviously labored over this one as anyone might a first child, but the content is probably too personal. As a result, the movie's style is heavy-handed, in need of a considerable amount of toning down. Nearly every time an action by the grown up gang recalls something they did as kids, Moresco reminds us -- boy does he remind us. With slow dissolves to the earlier scene, running in slow motion, complete with dialogue from the present, just in case we don't comprehend the link to the past.
Moresco needs to either trust his audience's intelligence, or have more faith in his own presentation rather than beat us over the head with it. His next project should have a little more personal distance, and a lot more subtlety. If he actually gets that chance.
Reviewed as part of our 2001 Boston Film Festival coverage.