A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

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Rating: R

Starring:
Robert Downey Jr. as Dito
Rosario Dawson as Laurie
Shia LaBeouf as Young Dito
Chazz Palminteri as Monty
Dianne Wiest as Flori
Channing Tatum as Antonio
Eric Roberts as Older Antonio

Special Features:
Director and Editor Commentary
Alternate Opening & Endings
Deleted Scenes
Making of Documentary
Previews
Additional Never Before Seen Material

Other Info:
Widescreen
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Language
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 98 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD cover:

“A coming-of-age drama about writer/director Dito Montiel’s youth, the film captures the mid-1980s in the toughest neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. Dito (Robert Downey Jr.), called home after 15 years because his father (Chazz Palmintieri) is ill, encounters old friends – the ones he lost, the ones he left behind, the ones he can’t help but remember. These are Dito’s “saints.” An honest account of a bittersweet return to a neighborhood where relationships can never be what they once were, Dito’s story is about coming to terms with a father’s rage and a father’s love.”

“A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” is rated R for pervasive language, some violence, sexuality, and drug use.

Mini-Review:
“A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” is obviously a film near and dear to the heart of writer / director Dito Montiel. After all, it’s about his childhood. I personally found it difficult to watch for several reasons. First of all, Dito spends the entire movie beating himself up for leaving his friends and family in their New York neighborhood. He obviously feels guilt and a sense that he abandoned them. However, the film makes it equally apparent that if Dito had stayed in the neighborhood he would have either ended up dead or in jail. And when he expresses his fears to his father, his father selfishly wants Dito to stay in the neighborhood or never have anything to do with the family again. It really seems like Dito’s only chance in life would come when he left the neighborhood, so it’s a bit hard watching the guy torture himself about the decision for 98 minutes.

The other thing I didn’t like about “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” were all the characters (never a good thing for a film). They’re all basically thugs. Every other word out of their mouths is “f**k” and you see that if they encountered a little old lady walking down the street, they’d push her in front of a car if the notion came to them. It’s a little hard to identify with these people when they’re so unlikable. And when they are put in jeopardy, you don’t particularly feel sorry for them. This is the case for everyone from Chazz Palminteri as Monty to Dianne Wiest as Flori.

“A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” is a pretty good showing for a first time director. Dito got good performances out of the actors and the cinematography looks good. Shia LaBeouf particularly stands out among the cast. I thought some scenes where the characters spoke directly to the camera were entirely unnecessary and artsy, but otherwise the nonlinear storytelling worked well. The flashbacks helped develop the motivations for Dito.

I’d really only recommend “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” to those who enjoy art house films. It’s the kind of movie that will really only appeal to those who like seeing characters go through emotional torture on the screen.

There are a ton of bonus features included on this DVD. You have your standard commentary, an extensive ‘making of’ featurette, and a lot of alternate and deleted scenes. If you liked the film there should be plenty here to make you happy.

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