No Way Home (1996)




(director/writer: Buddy Giovinazzo; cinematographer: Claudia Raschke; editor: Stan Warnow; music: Rick Giovinazzo; cast: Tim Roth (Joey Larabito), Deborah Kara Unger (Lorraine), James Russo (Tommy Larabito), Saul Stein (Brick), Joe Ragno (Ralphie), Catherine Kellner (Denise); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Lisa Bruce/Robert Nickson; Norstar Entertainment; 1996)

“Works fine when it sticks to drama, but when it ventures off into thriller cliché territory it bogs down considerably.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Mentally challenged as a result of a childhood accident, Joey Larabito (Roth) is paroled after serving 6 years in prison on a murder rap and returns to the Staten Island home of his upbringing. His back is scarred and through a flashback we learn how that happened. Things have changed at home, as his mom has died and his older brother Tommy (Russo) surprises him that he married. Tommy takes Joey in, much to the scorn of his blonde stripper-wife Lorraine who fears living with a murderer. But soon a positive, caring relationship develops between the two, as Joey’s gentle and quiet ways win her over. When Tommy has big problems over debt and in his dealings as a small-time drug dealer with local mobsters and shows he’s not a really nice guy even though he tries to be nice, he becomes a source of Lorraine’s problems and she uses Joey as a trusted ally.

Questions arise if Joey is really capable of murder, as the sensitive lad’s only aim now is too never go back to prison.

Unger and Roth in this character driven drama, navigate their difficult roles with much skill revealing their inner emotions and sense of hopelessness in their choice of lifestyles. Their friendship touches a deep emotional base without them falling in love. Unger is torn that she had to settle for a low-life existence in the deceptively sunny habitat of the slummy part of Staten Island when at heart she’s really a suburban gal. While Roth gives his handicapped character dignity by never stooping to sentimentality.

The film’s major problem is director/writer Buddy Giovinazzo’s ill-advised decision to bring about an over-the-top cleansing blood bath finale to make his point, rather than further developing the character study it so successfully relied on for most of the story. Often not a pleasant movie to watch, but it is captivating in the sense that it credibly conveys the wants and passions of some of these downtrodden ordinary neighborhood types. “No Way Home” works fine when it sticks to drama, but when it ventures off into thriller cliché terrotory it bogs down considerably.