out of Five
Running time: 98
Strong performances keep this watchable, but it's hampered by some ludicrous casting and a disenchanting script.
What's it all about?
Adapted from his own life experiences by first time writer-director Dito Montiel, this coming-of-age story stars Robert Downey Jnr as Dito, an LA-based writer who returns to his home neighbourhood of Astoria, Queens for the first time in 15 years when he learns that his father (Chazz Palmintieri) is seriously ill.
His memories stirred, Dito flashes back to the summer of 1986 when as a teenager (now played by Shia LeBeouf) he divided his time between his girlfriend Laurie (Melonie Diaz) and getting into scrapes with the Saints, including hotheaded beefcake Antonio (Channing Tatum).
However, as he tries to track down his old friends, Dito gradually realises the part they have played in shaping his future career.
The performances are good (notably Downey Jnr, LeBeouf, Diaz and
Tatum) and there's strong support from Palmintieri and Dianne Weist as Dito's long-suffering mother. In addition, Montiel invests the dialogue scenes with a kind of shouty energy that works well, highlighting the fact that these people's problems stem from not listening to each other.
That said, the plot itself doesn't do anything new beyond recycling the same old cliches – there's nothing remotely original about Dito's story and it's difficult to care about any of the characters.
Similarly, the flashback structure removes any trace of dramatic tension, since we know that Dito survives to tell his tale.
However, the biggest problem is the fault of the casting director:
LeBeouf ages 15 years and becomes Robert Downey Jnr, but in the same time period, Diaz ages just five years and becomes Rosario Dawson with a bad hairdo. This disparity is so jarring that it actually takes you out of the film.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is Well acted and never less than watchable but it's not particularly engaging and you'll definitely feel like you've seen it all before.
A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints (15)