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VINE VOICEon 21 July 2007
This 1994 film is set in Brighton Beach, the area of Brooklyn where Russians have settled. It's a rough and gritty neighborhood and we meet a family with multiple problems. The oldest son, Tim Roth, is a hit man for the mob who's been out of touch with his family for several years but has to come back to the neighborhood to carry out a murder. His teenage brother adores him and follows him to all the wrong places. The mother, played by Vanessa Redgrave, is dying of a brain tumor. The father, played by Maximillian Schell, works hard all day at a newspaper stand, cheats on his wife and is brutal to his sons. There is violence and murder throughout and the audience knows it will just get worse.

Usually, I complain because films like this are not realistic. However, I felt just the opposite about this film. It is almost too realistic, cruel and depressing. And there is no bit of lightness to offset the somber mood. I also felt some real emotion. To me this was serious stuff.

Performances were uniformly excellent, especially that of Maximillian Schell. He came across a real person with upsets and conflicts and bad choices. Tim Roth, who is actually a British actor, managed to get the New York street accent just right. The rest of the cast seemed completely authentic. I especially liked the family's large run-down apartment and the scenes shot near the beach during the winter. And the murders made me shudder because they were so very real.

The drama held my attention and let me feel the dilemma of this troubled family. It ends sadly, as I expected it would. And it is completely depressing. However, I liked it and therefore recommend it.
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"Little Odessa," (1994), written and directed by James Gray, is a remarkably powerful and effective, award-winning American crime drama set among the Russian community in present-day Brooklyn, New York. At its heart, it's a tale of a dysfunctional family that has lost its way in its new American life. And it's been given a top-drawer cast, all of whom fully inhabit their roles. Arkady Shapira, played by Maximilian Schell, (The Odessa File [DVD]), is the unhappy father of this brood. In Russia, Shapira was a respected man; in Brooklyn he runs a newsstand. Irina, his wife, played by the superb Vanessa Redgrave, Mary Queen Of Scots [DVD] [1971], is suffering from a brain tumor. Tim Roth,Reservoir Dogs, in one of his best performances, is their disaffected son Joshua; he's become a professional hit man, and long exiled himself from family and neighborhood. Edward Furlong, Animal Factory [DVD] [2003], plays his confused younger brother Reuben. Moira Kelly, Cutting Edge The [DVD], turns in a fine performance as Alla Shustervich, former girlfriend of Roth's character.

Life and death business brings Roth's character Joshua back to Brooklyn's Brighton Beach neighborhood; it resembles the Russian Odessa, as so much of its population is now Russian-born, and both localities lie on the sea. The area is bleak in winter, and Joshua knows he should not return. But return he does, yearning to restore relations with his family, over his father's objections. It soon proves to have not been a good idea.

Those of us who lived in Brooklyn as the Russians came crowding in in the hundreds of thousands never quite knew what to make of them, nor, I suppose, do we yet. But this is surely the Brooklyn we know, with its massive, solid, prewar buildings -- huge boilers in the basements -- in which entire families have been born, lived, and died. And Gray's intense script has given his characters here dialog and usage that any Brooklynite would recognize. Furthermore, these actors, most especially including the British Roth, have sure got the local accent.

The movie is as bleak in outlook and outcome as its wintry, dirty-snowy setting, and, in its specificity and verisimilitude, it earns its status as a solid gangster picture.
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on 22 February 2000
This film is about a young hitman and his family set against the background of Manhattan's Brighton Beach, a bustling immigrant community where Russian is still the language of transaction, where everyone still knows each others business and where family is the only thing that matters, but where none of the old rules apply. Tim Roth is quite outstanding as the hitman who returns home despite the fact that his life is in danger. This film in all honesty is dragged quite a bit, slow moving with long periods of silence, but is still beautifully shot and superbly acted. It's a kind of quality arthouse film.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 January 2012
I'm a long time fan of Tim Roth, who doesn't do nearly as much as I'd like him to, these days. The other British stalwart in this, the equally excellent Vanessa Redgrave was another point of interest for me.

There's a real brutal efficiency to this film that makes it unlikeable but also demands respect and our attention. Roth is the roving assassin who is forced to do his next job in his old neighbourhood and that means getting reacquainted with his family. Dying Mum (Redgrave), hateful and abusive Father (Maximilian Spiel), as well as impressionable younger brother (Edward Furlong). 24 year old debutant director James Gray comes up with - and scripts - a surprisingly mature piece of crime cinema that is both poignant, moving and shocking.

To my mind, the violence should rate the film at 18, not 15; the cold-blooded unfeeling of Roth's callous and unflinching "jobs" don't even give us time for any bad taste in our mouths. I can see that some would find this a barrier to their enjoyment in what is mostly a character-driven drama of some depth. The winter-set scenes of back street Brooklyn are chillingly authentic and bleak and these help remind us of the family's Russian roots. The father, a devout Jew, who's also having an affair often speaks Russian still, hanging to his identity the best he can, in an alienating, changing and disintegrating world.

There are also some tender moments between assassin son and brain-tumour suffering mother, and of him lovemaking with his girlfriend, who wants to try to understand him and his motives. His younger brother tries to keep his own feet on the ground, whilst his sibling gradually but surely steals his innocence. Yes, it is sad - and savage but strangely rewarding, too.
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on 13 January 2001
It is very possibly the most depressing film in history, yet it manages to be utterly fascinating: I was simply swept off my feet by the actors' performances (particularly Tim Roth's), the atmosphere that permeates everything, and such extraordinary details as Arvo Paert chorales on the sound track. In a way, it is also very uplifting: your life is most definitely better than theirs.
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on 9 October 2007
This movie was directed by James Gray, who was only 24 when he made this movie and six years later he makes an even better movie called The Yards. This one starts out with Tim Roth playing a hit-man who can't or won't go back to Brooklyn because of his dad, who wants nothing to do with him and some Russian gangsters. Roth is ordered to go and he wants to keep a low profile but it doesn't work that way. His mother is dying and his father wants nothing to do him and his little brother, played by Edward Furlong, wants to be like him. The movie isn't exactly clear about who Roth has to kill but you slowly find out. It is a pretty good movie but The Yards is a much better film.
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on 9 October 2012
Not his best but still very entertaining i am a fan of Tim Roth & he has made some very good films,I got this at a good price but as i had not seen this film & saw that Tim Roth was in it that's why i got it. But it is good .
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on 2 March 2015
Excellent A+++
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