State of Grace (1990)

“You believe in the angels or the saints or there’s such a thing as a state of grace. And you believe it, but it’s got nothing to do with reality. It’s just an idea. I mean you got your ideas and you got reality, and they’re all … they’re all fucked up.” A gritty crime drama shot on location in New York City, State of Grace is notable for featuring a slew of powerful performances from the likes of Sean Penn, Gary Oldman, Ed Harris, Robin Wright and John C. Reilly. The film focuses on the Irish mob (based on the notorious Westies gang) in Hell’s Kitchen headed by “Frankie Flannery” (Ed Harris). “Terry Noonan” (Penn) returns to the gang after a mysterious 10-year absence (he’s harboring a secret that I won’t reveal here). He once again starts hanging out with his childhood buddy, “Jackie” (Oldman), Frankie’s younger brother, a total loose cannon with stringy hair, a violent streak and a wild, self-destructive bent. It’s a truly remarkable performance and worth the price of admission right there. According to the late, great film critic Roger Ebert, “What’s best about State of Grace is what’s unique to it—the twisted vision of the Oldman character, who lives in a world of evil and betrayal and has somehow thought himself around to the notion that he is doing the right thing.” Terry also rekindles his relationship with Jackie and Frankie’s sister “Kathleen” (Wright, who was married to Penn from 1996-2010). Reilly portrays dopey gang member “Stevie McGuire.” Also look for Joe Viterelli as “Borelli,” John Turturro as “Nick” and Burgess Meredith as “Finn.” Not only does this unruly Irish gang have to deal with rival Italian mobsters encroaching on their turf but Hell’s Kitchen itself is undergoing gentrification (much to everyone’s chagrin!). Spoiler alert! I particularly enjoyed the final slow-motion shootout at the bar (okay so it’s a little unrealistic!) intercut with the shots of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Directed by Phil Joanou and written by Dennis McIntyre (who tragically died of cancer the year it was released), State of the Grace was a box office failure, generating just over $1.9 million during its brief U.S. run (it didn’t help that the film was released around the same time as Goodfellas!). The legendary Ennio Morricone provided the score. The tagline read, “A family ripped apart by violence. A love corrupted by betrayal. A friendship stained by blood.” Joanou directed U2’s 1988 rockumentary Rattle and Hum.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu