Saint Michael Of The City is a crime drama of the sorts that James Gray made his name on. Moderately sized tales of low to mid-sized mobs were a dime a dozen in the late 1990s/early 2000s. But as The Sopranos grew in popularity, cinema moved on to different ventures. Recently, though, such films have been resurfacing in indie productions. Do co-writer/director Jeff Stewart and co-writer/co-star Kevin Interdonato breathe new life into the material, or is this a stale retread?
Michael (Adam Ratcliffe) up and left his small-town life seven years ago. But now, Michael has returned only to find that not much has changed. The gang still strong-arms money away from business owners, and everyone still involved is quick to fight. Paulie (Brian Anthony Wilson) runs the show and is delighted by Michael’s return, as he always had a good head on his shoulders. Cuz (Interdonato) is also pleased, though he spends much of his time complaining to Michael about how the operation has grown, thanks to him, but Paulie doesn’t acknowledge what he’s done.
However, reconnecting with his one true love throws Michael for a loop. Diane (Jensen Jacobs) opened up her dream salon and married Paulie because she “had things he wanted, and he had things [she] needed.” Michael knows an apology won’t suffice but still wishes to reintegrate into her life. But old habits never die, and soon enough, Cuz is taking Michael on jobs to rough up people for money. However, looming over every interaction and conversation is one question: why did Michael return now, and what is he hoping to get out of returning home?
“…old habits never die, and soon enough, Cuz is taking Michael on jobs to rough up people for money.”
Saint Michael Of The City hits most of the familiar beats associated with these types of films. Pressure to rejoin the organization? Check. Yearning for a love that cannot be? Present. A secret that tests loyalties is revealed halfway through? Here. Stewart and Interdonato make each moment feel earned. The conversations flow freely, almost seeming improvised. This very natural atmosphere makes everything believable.
The cast takes the grounded script and anchors it. Ratcliffe is likable and appealing. He imbues Michael with a sweetness that makes everyone’s excitement over his return believable. Odd name aside, Interdonato plays Cuz as insecure but fun. Jensen is sweet, and it is easy to see why Michael has never gotten over her character. Ava Paloma portrays Michael’s sister and has a moment 20 to 30 minutes from the end that is both defensive and sincere. Wilson is tough yet sincere enough to be a mob boss and a decent husband.
Stewart’s direction gives the actors room to breathe. He and the director of photography, Jamaal Green, use several simple camera tricks to accentuate moments. When Michael and Diane first run into each other again at a diner, the slowly shifting focus highlights what is crucial as she walks closer to the only man she’s ever loved. Unfortunately, a lot of the film is lit in a very dull manner. For a film focusing on the mob’s dirty deeds, it sure is bright and doesn’t use shadow too often.
Saint Michael Of The City is not too original, but the story feels authentic to these characters. Said characters are wonderfully brought to life by a strong cast. The direction focuses on everyone’s reactions to the drama happening around them, though the lighting is disappointing. Overall, though, this is a winning crime drama.
"…a winning crime drama."