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definition - State_of_Grace_(film)

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State of Grace (film)

State of Grace

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Phil Joanou
Produced by Ned Dowd
Randy Ostrow
Ron Rotholz
Written by Dennis McIntyre
Starring Sean Penn
Ed Harris
Gary Oldman
Robin Wright
John Turturro
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Jordan Cronenweth
Editing by Claire Simpson
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release date(s)
  • September 14, 1990 (1990-09-14) (United States)
Running time 134 minutes
Country United States
Language English

State of Grace is an American neo-noir[1] crime film starring Sean Penn, Ed Harris and Gary Oldman, and featuring Robin Wright, John Turturro and John C. Reilly. Written by Dennis McIntyre and directed by Phil Joanou, the film was executive produced by Ned Dowd, Randy Ostrow, and Ron Rotholz, and features a score by Ennio Morricone. Although not a box office success, the film—particularly Oldman's morally ambiguous performance—was generally well received by critics.

Shot on location in New York City, the film was inspired by the real-life Hell's Kitchen gang The Westies.


  Plot Summary

Terry Noonan (Sean Penn) returns home to New York's Hell's Kitchen after a ten year absence. He soon hooks up with childhood pal, Jackie Flannery (Gary Oldman) who is involved in the Irish mob run by his brother, Frankie (Ed Harris). Terry also rekindles an old flame with Jackie's sister, Kathleen (Robin Wright). Soon, however, Terry is torn between his loyalty to his friends and his loyalties to others. He is actually working as an undercover cop in order to help the police break up the gang. However, he is under great pressure and finally reveals his true identity to Kathleen but she wants to have nothing more to do with him after being told by her brother, Frank, that he is an up and coming member in his gang and has already killed two people.

Jackie is drinking in a bar one night when three members of a rival Italian gang enter and he ends up killing all three, feeling insulted that they are on his gang's territory. Frank is summoned to a meeting by the Italian mafia boss and is instructed to kill his brother 'who has become a thorn in both their sides.' Frank has told Jackie to lie in wait in case the meeting goes wrong and only manages to avert a war by hugging the Italian leader outside the restaurant, in full view of his gang members.

Frank arranges for Jackie to collect $25,000 that evening, telling him that the Italians are actually supporting them and this is a reward. Jackie takes Terry along as his secret back up, and they wait at Pier 84. Frank arrives with his lieutenant and, while Terry is trying to phone his police sergeant and undercover supervisor, Nick (John Turturro), whom he mistakenly told to wait at another location. Frank fatally shoots Jackie although Terry did not witness him doing this. The police finally arrive and Terry tells Nick that he is quitting as an undercover operative.

At Jackie's funeral, Terry tells Frank he was at Pier 84 and also hands Frank his police badge. It is now St Patrick's Day and Frank has instructed his gang to find and kill Terry. While Kathleen is watching the St Patrick's Day parade on her own, Terry goes to the bar where Frank and his gang are drinking and, after a deadly shoot out, killing all of Frank's men, he finally kills Frank. Terry himself is shot three times and the viewer is left not knowing if he lives or dies.


  Critical reception

State of Grace was generally well received by critics. Of the reviews collected from notable publications by popular review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an overall approval rating of 88%.[2] Janet Maslin, film critic for The New York Times, wrote, "Mr. Joanou attempts to capture the sense of place that defines urban crime, and the ethnic and territorial distinctions that give it shape. He is successful much of the time here." Maslin praised Oldman and Harris, writing, "Jackie Flannery is played by the phenomenal Gary Oldman, who since Sid and Nancy has taken on a string of new accents and dramatic identities with stunning ease", and "Jackie's icy older brother...is played by Ed Harris with an eeriness to match Mr. Oldman's."[3]

Critic Vincent Leo praised Penn's performance, noting, "While Oldman gets the accolades for his energetic performance, it is really Penn's inner demons that provides the film with the right amount of conflict, always letting us be aware that fine lines are the difference between life and death, as well as right and wrong, out in the streets of New York. Is Penn doing the noble thing by taking down the criminals, or is he a rat bastard, disowning himself from the way of life and people who helped him along the way? It's the question that makes him sick to the pit of his stomach, and Penn shows it in his face with almost every scene."[4]

Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert awarded the film 3 stars out of four: "Gary Oldman's performance in the movie is the best thing about it... He acts only on the basis of his instincts and prejudices, or out of vengeance and fear."[5]


  Box Office

The film was released on a limited basis on September 14, 1990. First-week box office totaled $179,927 (14 screens).[6]

According to "The Numbers" web site, the film was in circulation a few weeks and appeared on 335 screens in its widest release. Total receipts were $1,911,542.[7]

Ebert believed the difficulty State of Grace had at the box office was due to another film with the same theme being released the same week, Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas.[8]


  Soundtrack CD Cover. Note the neo-noir look.

The original soundtrack was released on October 1, 1990, by MCA. The CD has eighteen tracks, is 53:45 in length, and features a score composed, orchestrated and conducted by Ennio Morricone.

Other songs in film
In the scene where Jackie introduces his girlfriend to Terry, the song "Trip Through Your Wires" by the band U2 can be heard in the background. Both this song and "Exit" are cuts from the 1987 album The Joshua Tree and are also played in the film's trailer. Joanou previously directed U2's 1988 live concert documentary U2: Rattle and Hum and the band's video for the single "One" (1992). Guns N Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine" plays in a bar scene.


  1. ^ Silver, Alain and Elizabeth Ward, eds. Film Noir: An Ecyclopedic Reference to the American Style, "Filmography of neo-noir," p. 438, 3rd Edition. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5.
  2. ^ State of Grace at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: December 4, 2007.
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet. The New York Times, film review, September 14, 1990.
  4. ^ Leo, Vincent. Qwipster, film review.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger. The Chicago Sun-Times, film review, September 14, 1990. Last accessed: June 8, 2008.
  6. ^ Box Office Mojo box office data.
  7. ^ The Numbers box office data. Last accessed: December 5, 2007.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger. Ibid.

  External links



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