State of Grace

Phil Joanu’s State of Grace was released at the same time as Goodfellas. Goodfellas is about the mafia (mainly Italian descent gangsters). State of Grace is about the Irish mob in New York, although the Italian mob features heavily too.

Needless to say Goodfellas cleaned up at the box office and with the critics. Very few people saw State of Grace at all, but it did have resurgence on video in early 90s.

So, what’s to like about this film? Well, there’s an awful lot actually. It’s got some great New York photography, a big film feel about it. A soundtrack that is all killer and no filler and an original score by Ennio Morricone. It’s also got some good performances from Sean Penn, Robin Wright and Ed Harris and a truly great performance from Gary Oldman.

Oldman steals the film playing a boozed up wild boy, during a period in his career when he was a boozed up wild boy. This is a great drinking film.

What else is there to enjoy? Some good minor players getting parts in a big film, including a young John C Reilly and the underrated RD Call. It also feels pretty Irish and it’s not just the U2 and Pogues songs on the soundtrack, it’s got the drunk/stoned maudlin Irish streak running through it.

The story is well covered and a bit of a cliché now (Infernal Affairs stole it and The Departed took it back, to Boston) but a apart from a few miss-steps it feels fairly fresh and even new at times.

It all ends (like all good films should) with a Peckinpah style shootout in glorious slow motion during the Saint Patrick’s Day parade in New York.

I’m not entirely sure what happened to Phil Joanu. I’ve heard he pissed off the wrong people in the film business. He was very young when he made this, and I think he deserves another shot with a decent budget and actors, he’s got an eye and ear for this stuff. Trailer below (it’s actually a pretty good trailer for once!)

So, 55 films to go…

Matthew Cooper has written for Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs. He was winner of the first ever Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge and the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize. His first short film starred a then unknown Ewan McGregor and was picked up by Channel Four when Matthew was 19 years old. He’s been a script writer for hire and filmmaker for hire for over 20 years.