An impressive if uneven first feature (1994), strong on atmospherics and weak on certain family links and ethnic details, by young New York writer-director James Gray... Up to a point, this is yet another crime picture; beyond that point are some style and feeling that make you remember it longer than most of the others.
Solid little film buoyed by strong performances... Remarkably (and admirably) restrained for a film about a hit man; this is the sort of low-key filmmaking that I almost always find absorbing, provided the script and the acting are up to snuff. Gray made terrific use of the infamous New York blizzard of 1993--his Brighton Beach looks like Siberia. Not as flashy a debut as those of Tarantino and Rodriguez, but quietly impressive in a way that suggests a potential first-rate director.
Of course, Gray never approaches Dostoyevsky's depth. Little Odessa is Crime and Punishment with 500 pages cut: all that's left is a skeletal plot. Joshua says, "I don't wanna talk anymore" before any real conversation about his crimes even begins. When the characters do speak, they tend to belabor the obvious: "I don't need a gun to be a man." "I know you can change." "I'm sorry I hit you, but you're always running away." (Irony!)
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