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State of Grace - Blu-ray Review

State of Grace

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

RELEASED around the same time as Goodfellas, Phil Joanou’s crime drama State of Grace is an overlooked gem.

Featuring blistering performances from Sean Penn and Gary Oldman, this is sweaty, downbeat but undeniably powerful and topped off with a brilliant slo-mo gunfight finale.

The plot picks up as undercover cop Terry Noonan (Sean Penn) returns to his roots in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen with the intention of bringing down the Irish Mob before they can broker a blood soaked deal with the rival Italians.

Matters are complicated by the fact that his one-time best friend Jackie Flannery (Oldman) is now second in command to his brother and new Mob boss Frank (Ed Harris), both of whom Noonan must bring down, as well as his feelings for Jackie’s sister, Kathleen (Robin Wright Penn), who is herself desperate to escape her family’s violence.

Despite treading a fairly well-worn genre path, State of Grace excels in the quality of its performances. Penn does angst-ridden very well and his ever mounting sense of desperation is nicely contrasted with his torn loyalties to his badge and friend.

But it’s Oldman who really steals the show – his volatile Jackie a whirlwind of unpredictability; fiercely loyal yet prone to hot headed, foolish excess. The more you get to know him, however, the more tragic his character becomes (especially with the benefit of repeat viewing).

There’s eye-catching support, too, from Harris (superbly sinister as Frank), RD Call as his hiss-worthy hatchet man, John C Reilly as an unlucky Mob member and Wright Penn, as the equally conflicted love interest.

Joanou, for his part, captures the changing landscape of Hell’s Kitchen to a tee and, like some of Sergio Leone or Sam Peckinpah’s best work, also reflects nicely on the changing of an era. There’s even a sublime Ennio Morricone score to heighten the mood, while the one or two set piece moments are supremely well executed, culminating in that memorable climax.

Had it been released in any other time period, State of Grace would surely have been heralded as an instant classic. Its debut on Blu-ray enables people to rediscover it as the masterpiece that it remains.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 134mins
UK Blu-ray Release: August 24, 2015