The late 1970s New York was an interesting time. Though the city was still divided among the “families,” it was a time that ushered in the mob’s decline. In seventeen minutes, writer/director/actor Steve Young captures the energy and atmosphere of that time.
Hells Kitchen opens with underboss Johnny Santorelli (Steve Young) investigating a shipment that went missing while in transit through Brooklyn. It starts in a junkyard with a beaten Irish gentleman tortured for information. That leads to a meeting with Johnny’s boss, Jimmy “The Don” Gallo (Serge De Nardo), and Tommy Bianco (Andrew Lorenzo), an underboss representing the Brooklyn territory.
As a short film, Hells Kitchen packs a great deal of story into its concise runtime. It feels like a small chapter of a much larger narrative. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind watching a feature-length version of this film. The problem is that the short is dense with dialogue. Johnny has a great many lines, all designed to flavor the character and reflect the speech and bravado of that era. With this much dialogue, I found myself getting lost in the overall plot.
“…investigating a shipment that went missing while in transit through Brooklyn.“
As much as I felt there was too much dialogue, I did enjoy the rhythm of the speech. Everyone has a story to tell. Johnny’s disdain for the Irish comes out through a joke about a pilot, who could tell where he was by the smell. There’s also a lot of crude sexual jokes… sort of mob locker room talk. It all flowed well from the mouths of the talented actors.
What writer/director Young also did well was visually capture the look and style of the 1970s New York. I felt like I was transported to that time. Not just from the perspective of costumes and production design, but also from the feelings of uneasiness of being in the mob at that time.
Hells Kitchen is the first film directed by Steve Young. Though not perfect, Young shows great potential with his final cut. My only piece of advice is to slow down and let the story breathe. Allow the audience to keep up with the action.
"…Young shows great potential..."