The lure of power has snared two brothers (Tim Roth and Edward Furlong) into a deadly web of danger, deceit and passion too strong to resist. Torn between the sinister yet seductive world of crime and the bonds of family ... more »loyalty, the brothers must risk their lives to make a stand in the brutal struggle for survival in the mean streets of New York. An all-star cast explodes in this action drama in the tradition of Goodfellas.« less
"The movie is great and the original DVD was, too (Pioneer released it a couple years ago, it was widescreen and had commentary and a really nice extra feature with the director's watercolors)Well, this release is full-frame only, an effect that RUINS this beautiful, haunting, lyrical film. Just KILLS it! Better to not see it at all than to see it like this. (believe me, I have.) Plus Artisan didn't include any of the extra features from the previous edition. Hunt down the old one used somewhere!"
Almost too realistic, cruel and depressing. Serious stuff.
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 03/05/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."
earl65 | 05/29/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The story of a hitman named Joshua,who comes back to his childhood neighborhood in Brooklyn to do a hit. This soon starts trouble when he is reunited with his family. His mother is dying of a brain tumor, his father is a boozer and cheater who refuses to show any respect to his long lost son, and his little brother whom is so vulnerable to his brother's violence. A crime drama unlike others, which to say in a good way. Moves kinda slow at times, but other scenes are so powerful and rich that you won't even care. It also gives you a hard-edged look on Russian-American gangster life in NYC."
Low key, but packed with emotion
Joseph H Pierre | Salem, OR USA | 06/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
Director: James Gray
Studio: Artisan Entertainment
Video Release Date: August 27, 2002 Cast:Tim Roth ... Joshua Shapira
Edward Furlong ... Reuben Shapira
Moira Kelly ... Alla Shustervich
Vanessa Redgrave ... Irina Shapira
Paul Guilfoyle ... Boris Volkoff
Natalya Andrejchenko ... Natasha
Maximilian Schell ... Arkady Shapira
David Vadim ... Sasha
Mina Bern ... Grandma Tsilya
Boris McGiver ... Ivan
Mohammed Ghaffari ... Pahlevi
Mikhail Khumrov ... Yuri
Dmitry Preyers ... Victor
David Ross ... Anatoly
Ron Brice ... Man with one leg
Jace Kent ... Mechanic
Marianna Lead ... Clara
Gene Ruffini ... Janitor This is a strange movie. The only well-known cast members that I knew of were Maximillian Schell and Vanessa Redgrave, and I never recognized them until I saw their names in the credits. They have aged, as have we all. That is more a reflection on me than on the cast, no doubt, because I don't keep up with Hollywood's latest talent, and the ones I do recognize have changed. But, they can still act! The cast is relatively scanty; the movie, however, is of high quality. No need for more cast members.The color is muted, and it suits the film. It is set in New York City, in Brooklyn. The film evokes emotion, but the acting, though skillful, is also muted. Nothing is overstated. It is very well directed, obviously.This is the story of a Russian Jewish hit-man, Joshua Shapira (Tim Roth) who is reluctantly returned to his home territory (Brooklyn), where he is a wanted man, for a contract killing.Joshua finds that his mother, Irina (Vanessa Redgrave), is dying of a brain tumor, and his younger brother, Reuben (Edward Furlong) is cutting school, smoking dope, drinking, and generally headed for trouble. His father, Arkady (Maximillian Schell) is aware that he has failed in bringing up his oldest son. He has a mistress. although he loves his wife. Arkady rejects Joshua as a "street rat," who is loved by Reuben and his mother, Irina. The whole story is fraught with pent-up emotion. Execution scenes, although shown, are not overly graphic, although the film is rated "R" (probably for language).It is made for mature audiences, but is of good quality throughout. I'm glad I saw it. It has emotional impact.Joseph (Joe) Pierre author of Handguns and Freedom...their care and maintenance
and other books"
A Specific, Solid Gangster Picture
Stephanie DePue | Carolina Beach, NC USA | 03/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Little Odessa," (1994), written and directed by James Gray, is a remarkably powerful and effective, award-winning 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, is the unhappy father of this brood: in Russia, he was a respected man; in Brooklyn he runs a newsstand. Irina, his wife, played by the superb Vanessa Redgrave, is suffering from a brain tumor. Tim Roth, 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 plays his confused younger brother Reuben. Moira Kelly turns in a fine performance as Alla Shustervich, former girlfriend of Roth's character.
Life and death business brings Roth's character back to Brooklyn's Brighton Beach neighborhood;it resembles the Russian Odessa, as both lie on the sea. It's bleak in winter, and he 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, and these actors, most especially including the English 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."