January 22, 2003 -- "Under Hellgate Bridge" is a hard-edged gangster revenge movie which suffers from a budget too small to enable it to rise to its rightful place as a major crime genre film.
The film stars Michael Rodrick as Ryan Daniels, a guy who returns home to attend his brother's funeral. His brother James died of a drug overdose under Hellgate Bridge, one of the bridges that forms a border of the tough Astoria neighborhood of Queens. He finds out there is something fishy about his brother's death and he fans the flames of his old romance with Carla (played by Jordan Bayne of "Poltergeist: The Legacy" TV series). His investigation into his brother's death and his friendship with Carla both lead him into conflict with a local crime boss, Vincent (Jonathan LaPaglia of "The District" TV series). Vincent, who happens to be Carla's husband, tells Ryan to get out of town, but of course he stays too long. The only person he can trust is the local priest, Father Nichols (Dominic Chianese Jr. of "The Thomas Crown Affair") and even the priest has to tread carefully in this neighborhood.
Complicating matters is the strained relationship between Ryan and his addict brother Eddie (Brian Vincent of "Black Dog") and Eddie's addict girlfriend, Doreen (Careena Melia of "Moonlight Mile"). Vincent is not the top Mafia boss in the neighborhood, either, Vincent's boss is Sal (Frank Vincent of "The Crew"). Sal is an older fellow. He is not as hot-tempered as Vincent, but gives the distinct impression that he is just as dangerous. Sal lets Vincent run the local neighborhood, but he keeps an eye on what's going on there, and what Vincent is up to. There doesn't appear to be any law in Astoria, so the they settle disputes the way they used to in the Old West, with guns.
The best actor in the film is Jonathan LaPaglia, who plays Vincent. It is a fairly meaty role with some moral ambiguity. He really loves Carla and when he finds out she doesn't love him anymore, he vows to get even with the man trying to take her away from him. LaPaglia is very menacing in this role. Also good is Jordan Bayne who plays Carla. She is stunningly powerful in a rape scene without saying a word. Another good performance is turned in by Brian Vincent as Eddie. Also good is Frank Vincent. Some of the supporting performances are not up to par and Michael Rodrick is weak in the leading role. His motivations for coming back to Astoria and sticking around once he gets there are a bit cloudy. He doesn't seem to interact well with the other characters. He also doesn't seem to have the intensity the role demands. Some of the scenes also needed more takes, but that happens with low-budget films. Some of the music was good, but it didn't mesh well with the images. The cinematography by Leland Krane was effective, as was the lighting in many scenes. This film rates a C.
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