State of Grace (1990) Movie Reviews

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The Westies.

State of Grace is directed by Phil Joanou and written by Dennis McIntyre. It stars Sean Penn, Ed Harris, Gary Oldman, Robin Wright, John Turturo and John C. Reilly. Music is by Ennio Morricone and cinematography by Jordan Cronenweth.

Terry Noonan (Penn) returns to Hells Kitchen after a number of years away and finds his best pal, Jackie Flannery (Oldman), is a major player in the Irish/American mob being run by his elder brother, Frankie Flannery (Harris). With a love interest rekindled and a secret he dare not reveal, Terry is soon caught in a maelstrom of danger and tested loyalties.

It got lost in the slipstream of Goodfellas, but although it’s not in the same league as Scorsese’s critical darling, State of Grace is a splendid slice of neo-noir gangsterism. The plot is made up of standard genre tropes, divided loyalties, betrayals, kinship, revenge, rivalries, territorial machismo and etc, all of which of course comes laced with spitfire dialogue and sparky violence.

The strengths come with the performances of the lead cast members, the visual flourishes via Cronenweth and Joanou and Morricone’s classical score. Penn and Oldman are forces of nature, the former a ball of emotional turbulence, the latter a hopped up maniac with killer tendencies. Harris as the daddio main man is a moody and malevolent presence, as is Joe Viterelli as mafia boss man Borelli. Wright seems a little out of place in this material, Turturo isn’t used nearly enough, but Reilly scores well with a limited role and Burgess Meredith pops in for a superb cameo.

It doesn’t have originality on its side, but it’s a mightily strong film regardless, with the human drama drawing one in as the tech skills impress across the board. 8/10