State of Grace (1990)

Irish vs. Italians, nothing like it better.

Terry Noonan (Sean Penn), an Irish-American undercover cop working the Hell’s Kitchen beat, returns to his old neighborhood under the guise of reconnecting with friends Frankie and Jackie Flannery (Ed Harris and Gary Oldman), now leaders of an Irish mob family. Noonan’s actually been assigned to infiltrate the family and take them down — a task made all the harder when he renews his childhood romance with Kathleen Flannery (Robin Wright).

State Of Grace is a mobster flick that came out in 1990, along with other big-time Gangster flicks Godfather: Part III, Goodfellas, and Miller’ Crossing. This film never really stepped out in the light because of these others, but it is probably what makes it the most underrated.

The films look and appeal is just what makes it great. This look of Hell’s Kitchen in 1990, is just perfect, and it feels like a character itself, with all these thugs and bad guys inhabiting it.

The story is what is really rich however. You have Penn who grew up with all these guys, and he has so much loyalty to all of them, but he has to take them down but is torn between the loyalty of family, and his old lover. The film does show this and how at times Penn can’t even stand seeing all his friends go down, and him being put up to blame for it.

The writing is a bit of a bummer though. It isn’t as catchy, and as realistic as plenty of other mob films, and I felt like they were just saying this stuff to sound like mobsters. The difference between this film and Goodfellas, is that Goodfellas takes a straight-forward look at the life of gangsters with its very realistic dialogue, and this takes a sort of romantic look at the life of gangsters and just wants to sound like one.

In the end of the film, something really got me confused. I can’t really say anything to give too much away, but there is a huge shoot-out, in the number of gunshots that conveniently miss people, especially since these are all supposed to be tough, gun-savvy mobsters.

This acting here from the cast is very top-notched. Penn delivers another young, and strong performance as a man torn apart. But the best here is Gary Oldman, as Jackie. At first his look with the wrinkled down hair, I was expecting another one of those cheesy, gritty performances, when really what I got was one of the most heart-felt performances from anyone in the entire film. You really do understand this character for what he is, and not something he just looks to be like I did in the beginning. Ed Harris does that big bad guy look way too much in this film, and I really didn’t feel his anger come out in the performance.

Consensus: State Of Grace is a superbly acted mobster film with some great shots of New York, and an interesting story, just a lot more flawed than one of the best of 1990, Goodfellas.


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