A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (Montiel, 2006)

What a strange concoction. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is written and directed by the real Dito Monteil, but is also depicting the life story and starring two actors (Shia LeBeouf=young and Robert Downy Jr.=old) as Montiel growing up hard-nosed in 1980’s New York City. It’s as if I decided to get out of bed, write my life story, sell it, then decide to write the screenplay and direct it, then get Ryan Gosling to play the young me and Mel Gibson to play the old me, and watch the debauchery occur. Well, maybe not. It’s weird all the same, and Saints makes for an interesting look a nostalgia, disappointment, and anger, using a fine cast, including Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Weist, and the dynamic magnetism of Channing Tatum to show many lives faltering under the sweating sun of uncertainty. However fascinating it’s contradictions are in tone, it’s hard to recommend a film this juvenile, intentionally hard-headed, and one-dimensional, but the actors often save a little grace from the otherwise droll proceedings. What is it about films depicting impoverished people that is has to be flushed with cussing, as if all poor people are ignorant and act purely on instinct. Montiel’s outlook on his own character arc is flashy and contradictory, but his actors do a worthy job trying salvage some humanity buried under the countless cuss words and beatings. As Randy Jackson would say, it’s just “aight”, but nothing special.

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