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Movie Review: A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

Alternate Title: Mean Streets

Story: You Can't Go Home Again would have been another good alternate title for this engaging first film by director and writer Dito Montiel based on his own book of the same name.

Montiel's tale of the mean streets of Astoria, Queens in the 1980's is right on the money. How he existed and how he managed to get out of his preordained path to nowhere in his family's blue collar existence is told through flashbacks. While the story is not new, the way he tells it is very interesting. His life was prescripted until he meets a school pal who opens his eyes to the possibilities of leaving the neighborhood. This determination to move is seen as a betrayal by his family and friends.

His return to Queens after a twenty year absence to try to convince his estranged father to go to a hospital for treatment is his re-entry to the streets and his old life.

If you life coming of age films that take place on the gritty side of town - this film about family, young love, dreams, violence and redemption is for you.

Acting: Shia LaBeouf is an interesting young actor. I have my eye on him. Chazz Palminteri as the father was great as was Dianne Wiest as the mother. Channing Tatum as Antonio was terrific and reminded me of a younger Brendan Fraser. Melonie Diaz as the young Laurie and Rosario Dawson as the older Laurie were both great. And finally, Robert Downey, Jr. can do nothing wrong in my book. He is always good. The entire ensemble cast worked well.

Predilection: None

Critters: One of the characters is a Manhattan dog walker so we get about six cute doggies

Food: Sandwiches

Soundtrack: Terrific

Visual Art: The visual style of the film was totally believable including all of the details in the Astoria, Queens apartments.

Theater Audience: About 25 other people looking to recognize their saints.

Weather: About half the film takes place at night and the rest of the time it is hot, hot, hot summer.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: There are some spurts of violence that are unnerving.

Drift Factor: I was tuned in for the entire time.

Predictability Level: moderately high

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Perhaps a screenplay nod from another source.

Nit Picking: There were some times when I needed subtitles.

Big Screen or Rental: Either would be fine but I always recommend supporting the Indies. Robert Downey, Jr is a fine actor. For some of his other work try renting: A Scanner Darkly, Good Night, and Good Luck,. Heart and Soul, Wonder Boys, Bowfinger, Restoration, Only You, Natural Born Killers, Short Cuts, Heart and Souls, Chaplin, Soapdish, Chances Are, True Believer

Length: Under two hours