Little Odessa (1994)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBB.5.   USA, 1994.  Fine Line Features, Live Entertainment, New Line Cinema.  Screenplay by James Gray.  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by Independent Spirit Awards 1995.  

Deeply felt gangster drama chronicles the destruction of an entire family thanks to one member’s life in organized crime. A Russian Jewish family in Brooklyn are dominated by a quietly powerful father (Maximilian Schell), who has written off his thug son (Tim Roth) and is looking to push his younger boy () to achieve all that he can. Adding heartache to their family life is the imminent death of the boys’ mother () who is suffering from a brain tumor. When Roth comes home for the first time in years, his brother bonds with him in an effort to reclaim their childhood relationship, but the results are disastrous. James Gray makes a mini-Godfather film where the action isn’t glorious or stylish and the moral repercussions of the character’s actions aren’t tied up in false notions of familial solidarity or honour. Instead, there is a sense of tragedy that permeates just about every scene and hangs with perpetual gloom over the character’s heads. It’s not what I’d call a pleasant experience because of how intentionally grim it is, but it has plenty of rewards.

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