LaBeouf and Downey Jr. Shine

A rough neighborhood in Astoria, Queens provides the setting for the tragic A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints. Writer and director Dito Montiel’s autobiographical tale is a wrenching coming-of-age tragedy in the tradition of Mean Streets. Robert Downey Jr and Shia LaBeouf (Transformers) lead a star-studded cast.

One hot summer in the 1980s, young Dito Montiel (Shia LaBeouf) realizes there’s more to life than the rough neighborhood he’s known since birth. Hanging around a troubled youth named Antonio (Channing Tatum) prone to violence, Dito becomes entangled in an escalating feud that hurts his relationship with his father Monty (Chazz Palminteri). The young man dreams of escaping to California with his friend Mike and leaving everyone behind, including his beloved mother Flori (Dianne Wiest).

A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints has a parallel narrative structure. An adult Dito (Robert Downey Jr) has become a successful author out in California, having escaped the concrete jungle he grew up in New York. Dito returns home for the first time in years due to his father Monty’s illness. It’s a bittersweet visit that dredges up flashbacks of his last summer in Astoria as a teenager and forces him to confront his longstanding issues with Monty.

A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints’ visceral storytelling is ferociously well done

Interesting and provocative, A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints is powerhouse drama with gripping performances. Robert Downey Jr. got this movie made almost single-handedly with his star-power. It’s a glimpse into what drives him as an actor before Iron Man would change his career forever.

The raw, gritty story is intimate and personal. One of Shia LaBeouf’s earliest roles, it’s the best acting work in his career. You viscerally feel Dito’s emotional pain in the intense confrontation with Monty.

Chazz Palminteri is a revelation as Monty. Always a great character actor, Palminteri gives an Oscar-caliber performance. His scenes with Shia LaBeouf bleed on the screen.

If it’s true that every director has one great movie in them, this is it for Dito Montiel. Drawing passionate performances from the superb cast, A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints’ visceral storytelling is ferociously well done.

A Guide to Recognizng Your Saints Blu-ray screen shot

Video

MVD releases the 2005 movie on Blu-ray for the first time anywhere in the world. A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints receives a tolerable film transfer, if dated and in need of a new scan. Given the print’s condition and overall level of detail (mostly soft with so-so definition), it appears to be an older telecine struck years ago. Middling fine detail and heavy black levels make for gritty cinematography.

It’s possible this is the same HD transfer made for the 2006 DVD, or the Steelbook reissued a couple years later. The 1080p video retains the original aspect ratio. Running 100 minutes, the main feature is encoded in adequate AVC on a BD-25. Some ringing, patchy grain, and muddy colors are baked into the presentation.

The grain structure is erratic, hampered by a poor transfer and weak parameters. That being said, the presentation has its moments of decent clarity and better definition. Made outside a Hollywood studio despite the starpower, there may be issues with the film elements.

Audio

MVD ports over the 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack found on the original DVD. Interestingly enough, the stereo mix receives a lossless upgrade to 2.0 PCM. Always a shame when they neglect lossless surround audio on Blu-ray but it remains a fine surround presentation.

Guide to Recognizing Your Saints has a spacious, active mix that takes advantage of the city setting. Dialogue does tend to get lost in the powerful dynamics. Be prepared to read subtitles for a couple scenes if you listen at reference levels. Fidelity is fairly good, nicely rendering songs from Lou Reed and other classic acts across the soundstage.

Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles play in a yellow font.

Extras

MVD brings the 2006 film to Blu-ray as part of its Marquee Collection line. Hitting BD for the first time, it pulls supplemental content from the original First Look DVD. It appears that one short Sundance featurette may be missing that was on the DVD, but the disc’s menu structure here is hard to navigate and it may be somewhere hidden. The movie’s trailers are actually new finds since they were absent on the DVD.

The Blu-ray is coded for all regions.

Audio Commentary by Director Dito Montiel and Editor Jake Pushinsky – An unusual commentary by the pair, loose and engaging without being technical. You get a good sense of where Montiel is coming from making this movie.

Shooting Saints: The Making of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints featurette (20:11 in SD) – An in-depth exploration behind the scenes with Robert Downey Jr and Dito Montiel discussing the movie. Apparently Downey Jr grew up with Dito Montiel.

Full Monty interview (01:33 in SD) – A brief moment with Dito Montiel’s actual father.

Young Laurie Audition Tape (01:52 in SD) – Actress Diane Carcando’s audition for the role of Laurie.

Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by Director Dito Montiel (19:19 in SD) – Eleven deleted or extended scenes that hit the cutting room floor. Montiel explains why the scenes were cut in his commentary.

Alternative Opening & 4 Alternative Endings with optional commentary by Director Dito Montiel (13:30 in SD)

A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints Trailer 1 (02:33 in SD)

A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints Trailer 2 (02:20 in SD)

A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints Trailer 3 (01:14 in SD)

Avenging Angelo Trailer (00:56 in SD)

Eye See You Trailer (01:53 in SD)

Shade Trailer (01:59 in SD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Powerhouse coming-of-age story set in Queens with superb performances from the star-laden ensemble cast.

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