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Little Odessa Review

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Set among the Russian immigrant enclave of New York's Brighton Beach where a hitman returns home to visit his folks and take care of a little business.

★★★★★

Tim Roth, to his eternal credit, is not someone easily swayed by the lure of big bucks. In fact, as the star of Reservoir Dogs, Bodies Rest And Motion, The Hit and countless others, the man has done more than his fair share to support independent filmmaking. Sadly, if evidence was ever needed that all that independently glisters is by no means gold, then Little Odessa is it.

Set among the Russian immigrant enclave of New York's Brighton Beach this features Roth as a hitman returning to visit his folks and take care of a little business. Unfortunately, the familial hearth proves to be less than warming, not least because his mother (Redgrave) is dying of a brain tumour and his philandering father (Maximillian Schell) believes Roth has disgraced the family name. Still, he does manage to rekindle relationships with both his younger brother (Furlong) and old flame (Kelly) but, it becomes fairly clear early on that a happy ending is pretty much out of the question.

In fact, writer-director James Gray has managed to evoke an atmosphere so downbeat that, for most of the characters, death seems to be a positive relief. As a result, it's very difficult to really care about anybody. Little Odessa's real tragedy, though, is in the wasted talents of its first-rate cast. Redgrave, Schell and, in particular, Furlong are all excellent, while Roth underpins matters in an acceptably stone-faced manner. But no thespian fireworks can counter the fact that the film's ultimate conclusion - Russian immigrants are, as a rule, as miserable as hell - is unlikely to do much for either Brighton Beach house prices or British cinema-goers.

It's hard to care about the characters in this defiantly downbeat drama.