A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints Dito Monteil

This film is pitched partway between achingly sincere and fumblingly imprecise; it pours its heart out without considering what’s to be done with the contents. Based on the experiences of writer/director Dito Monteil, who escaped a life on the mean streets of Astoria, Queens to become a model, musician and memoirist, the film begins with the grown Monteil (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) learning that his father (Chazz Palminteri) is gravely ill; he then returns to his old stomping grounds in both body and memory. Thus we see his younger self (Shia LaBeouf) running with his friends, including girlfriend Melonie Diaz, abuse victim Channing Tatum and Irish/Scottish immigrant Martin Compson, negotiating pride and angst in ways that end in tragedy. The film is an attempt to give his friends and family presence, and in that sense it’s always compelling. But the film stops short of commenting on the human experience: what we see is random anguish and that’s all. And while Monteil proves to be a highly tactile filmmaker, he’s not in hailing distance of the sensual understanding of Mean Streets, the film to which it will be inevitably compared. Saints is far from boring and is often quite moving, but one comes away from its taste of hell wanting more of a meal. It’s better than most movies, which make you wish you never opened your mouth, but the conversations about what to do with its information are likely to be more interesting than the movie itself. Extras include a vivid, if actor-centric, director and editor commentary, an equally excellent "making of” doc, 11 deleted scenes, an alternate opening and four alternate endings (all with director commentary), a ragged scene shot during a Sundance lab session, and a brief (and slightly incoherent) interview clip with Monteil’s real father. (Maple)