A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS (Dito Montiel). 98 minutes. Opens Friday (November 17). For venues and times, see Movies, page 107. Rating: NN Rating: NN
This really should be called A Guide To Recognizing Your Film Clichés.
First-time filmmaker Dito Montiel's adaptation of his memoir of surviving his 1980s Queens teenhood walks the same mean streets and burns with the Saturday-night fever of many a better film before it.
Estranged for two decades from his family, the 30-something Dito (a suitably grizzled Robert Downey Jr.), now living in L.A., must decide whether to visit his deathly ill pa (Chazz Palminteri) and aging ma (Dianne Wiest) back in Astoria.
While he's making up his mind - lots of looking at mirrors, here - we're subjected to copious flashbacks that fill us in on why he left in the first place. It's the same old drill: dead-end friends, gangs, guns. The young Dito (Shia LaBoeuf) discovers poetry and glimpses a world away from the 'hood, but he'll break his epileptic pa's heart if he leaves.
Montiel captures the sights and sounds of city life, but his five-Italians-talking-at-the-same-time dialogue sounds contrived.
The young actors in the flashback scenes seem believable, except rising heartthrob Channing Tatum, who's mastered the young De Niro's stance and swagger but lacks his intelligence.
As for Wiest and Palminteri, you're better off renting Bullets Over Broadway. Same city, better script and a director who can actually direct.