Tag Archives: Phil Joanou

Phil Joanou’s State Of Grace

Phil Joanou’s State Of Grace had the unfortunate luck of being released in 1990, the same year that also saw Scorsese’s Goodfellas and the third Godfather film. It’s hard to gain your footing when that kind of momentum is surging about, but this film is as good as the others, and deserves recognition or at least some kind of re-release. Set in the blistering inferno of Hell’s Kitchen, NYC, it’s a violent tale of Irish Mobsters, undercover cops, betrayal and murder, set to a smoky, mournful Ennio Morricone score that lingers in the air like smog. Sean Penn is Terry Noonan, a deep cover operative who returns to his childhood neighbourhood to reconnect with old friends, and dig up buried grudges. Ed Harris is Frankie Flannery, ruthless gangster and former ally, while Gary Oldman plays his hotheaded brother Jackie with a tank full of nitrous and the kind of unpredictable, dynamite fuse

potency one expects to see from a David Lynch character. The three of them are on a collision course set in the grimy streets of New York, bound by old loyalties yet destined to clash and draw new blood. Penn shares the screen with his once wife Robin Wright here, looking lovely as ever. There’s also supporting turns from John Turturro, John C. Reilly, R.D. Call, a geriatric Burgess Meredith and an unbilled cameo from James Russo. Penn, Harris and especially Oldman are like flint sparks, a trio that won’t be stopped and light up the screen for a spellbinding, visceral two hours until their eventual confrontation, hauntingly shot by cinematographer ” in the midst of a bustling St. Patrick’s Day parade. This one has been somewhat lost to the ages, like a number of other stellar crime dramas I can think of from the nineties. The cast, score and Joanou’s thoughtful direction make it an unforgettable piece of work. 

-Nate Hill

Phil Joanou’s Heaven’s Prisoners: A Review by Nate Hill 

Phil Joanou’s Heaven’s Prisoners is a great little sweaty southern crime yarn that, as I recall, went through a modicum of production hell which some people seem to think stunted any chance it had. I for one think it came out just fine, a moody little neo noir with an intense yet laconic turn from Alec Baldwin, a gorgeous lineup of femme fatales to contend with played by some of the most talented gals out there, and a wily supporting turn from a cornrow sporting Eric Roberts. Baldwin plays Dave Robicheaux, an ex New Orleans who is rousted from tranquil relaxation on the bayou when a mysterious Cessna plane crashes into the marsh near him. Upon exploring it he turns up a considerable amount of drugs, no doubt on their way from somewhere bad to someplace worse. This is the catalyst for a whole whack of trouble falling into his lap, literally and figuratively. He is drawn into a lethal dragnet involving corrupt DEA, his old pal and drug lord Bubba Rocque  (Roberts, a prince in the limited screen time he gets), his dangerous moll (Teri Hatcher, sexy and malicious), and more. Baldwin navigates it all with a cold eyed cool of a professional who has been to these places before, both as actor and character. The stakes are high though, as he has a wife of his own (Kelly Lynch) who could potentially be dragged into the mess, and a former flame (Mary Stuart Masterson) who blows back into his life like a tropical storm cell. This film is based on a series of novels by James Lee Burke, all starring Robicheaux and chronicling his hard boiled adventures. You can also check out the excellent In The Electric Mist, another of these yarns from 2008 where Tommy Lee Jones takes up the mantle. Joanou knows the ropes and rigs of film noir, and paces this baby nicely, never too loud or proud and always with the laid back, simmering vibe of the south. 

Fallen Angels: Dead End For Delia- A Review by Nate Hill


Fallen Angels was a super cool L.A. film noir television series that ran in the 90’s, only never to be heard from again, curiously. It attracted an incredible lineup of directors including Tom Hanks, Alfonso Cuaron, Steven Soderberg, Peter Bogdanovitch, Jonathan Kaplan, John Dahl, Keith Gprdon, Tom Cruise and more, with an even more unbelievable troupe of prolific actors. For whatever sad reason though, it was never really released or marketed well, and has never seen the light of day. Dead End For Delia is the first, and one of the best of the bunch, directed by Phil Joanou, with the lead roles taken by Gary Oldman and Gabrielle Anwar. I’ve always wanted to see the two of them do something together, and funnily enough they share almost no screen time, but having the two occupy space in any project is electric enough. Oldman plays Pat Keilly, a police sergeant who is summoned to the scene of a crime, only to find out that the murder victim is his wife Delia (Anwar). As he is led along a trail of clues as to who her killer might be, he discovers things about her and realizes that he may have never really known his wife, or the person she really was. Oldman does something interesting here; for most of the film his trademark intensity sits at a low boil, lulling us into a false sense of calm and seeming to be one of his more restrained exercises. Then, all of a sudden in the last act he downright explodes and goes on a tirade of fuming emotion that is quite something to see. Makes me wonder if he planned this with his performance, or if he surprised himself with the unexpected outburst. The whole series is solidly star studded, and in addition to Oldman and Anwar we get to see Meg Tilly, Wayne Knight, Paul Guilfoyle, Vondie Curtis Hall and the great Dan Hedaya who works overtime playing at least ten different characters all throughout the show. It’s filmed through a lacy lens, the windows on set always open, the gauzy curtains set unearthly adrift to let in that clammy, humid L.A. breeze that promises secrets you wish you never knew as soon as it brushes against you. Perhaps one day this forgotten show will get a lovely dvd box set. Until then you have to scavenge for fragments over in the scrap yard of youtube. Good luck.