This film tells a bitter tale of a dysfunctional family. Joshua, a cold-blooded professional killer, returns to his Brighton Beach boyhood home for a “job.” He knows it will be difficult to return to the Russian-immigrant community of his youth—in his eyes, we see anticipation of the inevitable emotional pain and psychic turmoil that seeing his forsaken family and estranged companions will bring him. To do his job, and try to maintain some semblence of sanity, he has had to wall off his humanity from even himself. Seeing his kid brother, who adores him, talking with his dying mother, who still loves him, and yes, arguing with his abusive father, begins to wreak havoc with his personal defenses. As his steely demeanor begins to dissolve, we are shown the soul of a hit-man crumbling away, piece by piece. Finally, all that he now allows himself to admit that he loves is agonizingly torn away from him and he is left with the ultimate punishment for his transgressions. —IMDb
Bio: Writer/director James Gray made his first film Little Odessa (1994) at the age of twenty-four. The film, which starred Tim Roth, Edward Furlong, Vanessa Redgrave and ‘Maximillian Schell’, received critical acclaim and was the winner of the Venice Film Festival’s prestigious Silver Lion Award in 1994.
Miramax Films released James Gray’s second feature, The Yards (2000) starring Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Faye Dunaway, Ellen Burstyn, Charlize Theron and James Caan in fall of 2000. The film was selected for official competition at the 2000 Cannes International Film Festival. Prior to ‘The Yards’ and ‘Little Odessa’, Gray attended film school at the University of Southern California. It was there that his student film Cowboys and Angels was first seen by producer Paul Webster, who encouraged Gray to write his first feature script.
As a child growing up in Queens, New York, Gray aspired to be a painter. However, when introduced in his early teenage years to the works… read more
Gray’s admiration for Dostoyevsky is well-known and I saw it as some kind of modern and suburban adaptation of Crime and Punishment. Everyone depicted in this film is lost - people struggle with their own identity and just can’t adapt to their surroundings, no matter how hard they try to seek help of a higher power. Everything culminates in an unpredictably tragic ending so incredibly directed and with such a divine dimension attached to it I couldn’t help but feel breathless.
Like Reservoir Dogs, the job Roth pulls is merely a McGuffin. Unlike Reservoir Dogs, Gray discovers a state of grace with just his first film. His oblique framing belies its emotional bonds, or alternatively, underscores their fragility, as modern slipstreams and spiritual anguish converge, with the insular setting feeding both its potency and moments of tenderness. Gray’s films act as their own reservoirs of emotion for the modern, broken family unit.
James Gray's debut set the stage for what has turned into a brilliant career. The bonds of family and community butt heads with individualism with tragic results. Gray understands the war within individuals who want to break free of their roots but cannot. A powerful debut which holds up much better than other mid to late 90's crime films because he does not feel the need to be Quentin Tarantino.
An in-depth interview with James Gray about his new film, The Immigrant.
A climactic sequence in James Gray’s Little Odessa echoes Christopher Walken’s unforgettable entrance in Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate.
Jordan Mintzer’s collection of interviews is an indispensable source of insight into one of today’s best American filmmakers.