Four gangsters meet up in a New York church to discuss business in the late-seventies set short film Hells Kitchen from director Steve Young.
For our regular readers, you may be having a spot of deja-vu. You could be thinking that the name of this short film and the plot is eerily similar to something you have seen before on Screen Critix. That’s because we reviewed the short film back in August 2020. It turns out, we actually reviewed an unfinished version of Hells Kitchen, and so here we are with a new write-up of the newly completed film.
It’s 1978 in New York City and the rough Hell’s Kitchen district. The short starts with a great little scene involving two gangsters – one being Johnny Santorelli (played by writer/director Steve Young) – and an Irish criminal imaginatively titled Irish (Troy Larkin). Irish is stood inside a pile of tyres, bloodied and beaten. Apparently, he may have stolen something, but Johnny isn’t really interested in him being guilty or innocent, he just wants to torture and tell a racist joke. It’s an excellent opening that really sets the scene for the short.
We then move on to a church. Johnny, a second gangster named Eddie Galanti (Christopher Farrell) talk about what’s been happening in their mafia world, whilst their boss Jimmy ‘The Don’ Gallo (Serge De Nardo) is praying at the altar. Soon, they are joined by a member of a rival crime family – Tommy Bianco (Andrew Lorenzo) regarding a shipment that has gone missing.
Hells Kitchen is very dialogue-heavy, with the main characters discussing mafia-related topics. Even Johnny and Jimmy ‘The Don’ have some meaty monologues, with the former being more humour related, and the latter more on the sinister side.
The short is set in just two locations, and for budgetary reasons, it’s understandable. After all, the film is a period piece and one can only imagine how much it would have cost to have more exterior scenes featuring vehicles, extras in costume etc. So, sticking to just the two locations is a smart choice. The leather jackets, hair, and subtle colour palette sets the mood. It feels like a 70’s gangster movie, much in the same way that Donnie Brasco felt like a 70’s gangster movie.
The cinematography work by Joshua Hoareau is great. The opening scene is lit well with adding fog for atmosphere and lighting, and the Church is also done well. We get to see the stained glass windows lit beautifully, and the wooden pews all standing out like a painted picture. You also have to give credit to the editing, also by Hoareau. The film and shots are constantly moving, keep the viewer invested in what is taking part on the screen, complimenting the visuals, blocking and performances.
Talking about performances, all of those involved do really well. Director and writer Steve Young has the most to do as joker Johnny, but every character has a chance to shine within the 16-minute runtime.
The last time the (unfinished) short featured on this site, it was reviewed by a fellow critic. This was the first time that I had the opportunity to watch it and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would even go as far as to say I really want to see more of the characters and the underworld in which they roam. Maybe, if money should present itself to Steve Young and co and they can create a story they feel is worth telling, we can get to see an expansion. Bigger locations, bigger set pieces, bigger hairdos, and some of that funky 70’s music. I’d buy a ticket for that.