Laws of Gravity (1992)


(director/writer: Nick Gomez; cinematographer: Jean de Segonzac; editor: Tom McArdle; cast: Peter Greene (Jimmy), Edie Falco (Denise), Adam Trese (Jon), Arbella Field (Celia), Paul Schulze (Frankie), Saul Stein (Sal); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Bob Gosse/Larry Meistrich; RKO Pictures; 1992)

The characters seem so real that this film could be mistaken for a documentary.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

How about a derivative (smacks of Scorsese’s Mean Streets) but efficient flick about tough white kids in the mean streets of Brooklyn! The neighborhood is Bensonhurst and the ethnicity of the group is largely Italian-American. These neighborhood ruffians do petty larceny and gunrunning. Director-writer Nick Gomez’s first feature is a gritty urban crime drama, a prototype of cinema verite where the characters seem so real that this film could be mistaken for a documentary. It was shot by the editor for Hal Hartley’s “Trust” in twelve days for $38,000. The street scenes have a raw power, where much of the accolades can be attributed to the finely focused handheld camera work of Jean de Segonzac and the authenticity of the largely improvised rough street talk.

Jimmy (Peter Greene), Denise (Edie Falco), Jon (Adam Trese) and Celia (Arbella Field) are friends with no ambition or aim in life. Denise and Jimmy are married, while Jon and Celia are seeing each other. They survive by stealing crates from the backs of trucks and by shoplifting the local stores and bullshitting and boozing it up at the neighborhood bar. The slight plot involves the efforts of petty criminals Jimmy and Jon to unload an illegal cache of handguns. The reason for their escalated criminal activity is because Jimmy is under pressure from a loan-shark, while Jon has just been arrested for shoplifting. The volatile Jon has a quick fuse and is ready to punch out anyone who bothers him–including his girlfriend. The narrative takes place over a stretch of three hectic days, as the tension rises after the two idlers get involved with a notorious ex-con gun-dealer named Frankie they know from the neighborhood. Denise gets upset because Jimmy is out on parole, and if he gets caught selling the guns he could face some serious time. But the boys see this as a chance to clear their financial problems.

The film’s power is derived from the raw performances and the nearly perfect execution, and not from the familiar story line. The constant chatter among the characters is impressionably diverting and when mixed in with outbursts of irrational violence, the film explodes on the screen. Gomez also shows an unmistakable non-judgmental air toward any of the participants.