In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is a great movie in a vacuum.”
Recently, in my neighbourhood, I saw something that’s all too common these days. A video shop that was closing down. They had a big sign out the front, “4 movies for $10”. I looked in my wallet, saw $30 and decided I wasn’t leaving that shop until I found 12 movies I thought were worth having on my DVD shelf. Some were movies I’d seen before. Some were movies I had a vague idea about and thought would be worth the $2.50 gamble. Some were oddities I’d never even heard of, but they looked interesting enough. So, thank you, Network Video Brunswick West. I never rented anything from you or even had a membership, but I did find some cool, interesting and mysterious things on your almost empty shelves.
“How loud is this fucking city?”
New York movies are almost a genre all of their own. There are comedies, dramas, horror, action, thrillers and pretty much every other kind of movie within them. But New York is often the main character of these movies. These days, New York is pretty much always depicted as some magical place, where things like crime and homelessness are treated as quirky affectations. But back in the day, the best bit about New York in the movies was how dirty, sleazy and dangerous it was. You can almost smell movies like The French Connection and Taxi Driver through your TV screen. And while A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints may have been made in this new millennium era of romanticising the town, it does a great job in making its 80s setting believable through it’s depiction of Long Island at its dirty, sleazy and dangerous best.
After living in California for years, Dito (Robert Downey Jr) is heading home to New York to visit his parents, played by Dianne Weist and Chazz Palminteri. Flashing back to the mid 80s, we get the story of why young Dito (Shia LeBeouf) felt the need to leave. Hanging out with his friends, including Channing Tatum as Antonio, Dito spends his days chasing girls, causing trouble and fighting with local Porto Rican teenagers.
When street scraps turn into vicious beatings, and when fist fights escalate into weapon wielding battles, Dito, Antonio and their friends all start to head down paths that might prove a little difficult to come back from. All making for a strange, but interesting mix, of rose coloured nostalgia, and heart wrenching tragedy.
The biggest surprise with A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints was the reminder of who Shia LeBeouf was just a decade ago. Before the Transformers franchise and the terrible, terrible Indiana Jones movie made him one of Hollywood’s preeminent douches who is just so easy to hate, LeBeouf was the next big thing. He was the talented young guy who was getting noticed for all the right reasons. And Saints is a good example of why he was the next big thing.
Shia LeBeouf has the biggest role in this movie and is given the vast majority of the heavy lifting, which is a challenge he more than meets. Sure, Tatum’s great too, but he’s spent the years since this movie proving he’s awesome in any genre, role and style of movie. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is a great movie in a vacuum. It’s also kind of depressing when you think about Shia LeBeouf in 2016 and how much potential he pissed away.