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Weaned on the Thug's Life, but Pulled Toward Grander Ambitions

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Movie Review | 'The Narrows'
Weaned on the Thug’s Life, but Pulled Toward Grander Ambitions
A Brooklyn Boy’s Divided Loyalties in François A. Velle’s Thug-Buddy Film

Kevin Zegers in "The Narrows".
June 18, 2009
Until it implodes with preposterous plot manipulations, “The Narrows,” directed by François A. Velle, can be appreciated as the film equivalent of a reasonably palatable pasta dish concocted from a familiar recipe and served in a no-frills restaurant.

Its eager-beaver protagonist, Mike Manadoro (Kevin Zegers), is an aspiring photographer from an Italian-American enclave in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn, and is torn between making good money transporting mysterious packages for the crooked local kingpin (Titus Welliver) and studying his craft in Manhattan.

He is also torn between two women: his fiancée from around the corner, the tough-talking Gina (Monica Keena), and Kathy (Sophia Bush), a sophisticated fellow student who lives in Manhattan. Kathy, who is turned on by Mike’s working-class scruffiness, describes herself as a “classic, borderline, histrionic, cerebral narcissist,” but seems perfectly normal. Their sizzling affair (the movie peddles the cliché that blue-collar men are the hottest lovers) stalls when she encounters a different kind of heat (a gun) in Mike’s car.

Other characters include Nicky (Eddie Cahill), the neighborhood hero and football ace who returns from Afghanistan with a morphine habit and a hair-trigger temper, and Mike’s pompous photography teacher, Professor Reyerson, whom Roger Rees plays as a seeming parody of Salman Rushdie. The film adroitly uses Mike’s passion for photography to pepper the narrative with numerous split-second stills. But the recurrent shots of the elevated subway rattling back and forth between Manhattan and Brooklyn are as hackneyed a metaphor as you could find for Mike’s divided loyalties.

The best performance belongs to Vincent D’Onofrio as Mike’s widowed father, a sanitation worker turned neighborhood bookie who is living on workers’ compensation after an accident. The movie, adapted by Tatiana Blackington from Tim McLoughlin’s crime novel “Heart of the Old Country,” sabotages Mr. D’Onofrio’s performance with a final plot contrivance that is as cute as it is unconvincing.

“The Narrows” is a cut below “Brooklyn Rules” (2007), set in similar territory, and miles below “Mean Streets” (1973), the granddaddy of the modern thug-buddy genre, which invented the recipe when the tomatoes in the sauce were fresh.

“The Narrows” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has sexual situations and a graphic throat-slitting.


Opens on Friday nationwide.

Directed by François A. Velle; written by Tatiana Blackington, based on the novel “Heart of the Old Country,” by Tim McLoughlin; director of photography, Seamus Tierney; edited by Patrick Gallagher; music by Richard Marvin, with songs by the Black Keys; production designer, Aleta Shaffer; produced by Leslie Urdang, Ami Armstrong and Ms. Blackington; released by Cinedigm. In Manhattan at the Chelsea Cinemas, 260 West 23rd Street. Running time: 1 hour 46 minutes.

WITH: Kevin Zegers (Mike Manadoro), Vincent D’Onofrio (Vinny Manadoro), Sophia Bush (Kathy), Eddie Cahill (Nicky Shades), Monica Keena (Gina Abruzzi), Roger Rees (Professor Reyerson), Tony Cucci (Big Lou), Michael Kelly (Danny) and Titus Welliver (Tony).

The Narrows
Director François Velle

Writer Tatiana Blackington

Stars Kevin Zegers, Vincent D'Onofrio, Sophia Bush, Eddie Cahill, Titus Welliver

Rating R

Running Time 1h 46m

Genre Crime, Drama, Thriller

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Last updated: March 30, 2016

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