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Stars: Robert Downey Jr, Shia LaBeouf, Dianne Wiest, Chazz Palminteri

Director: Dito Montiel

Gritty but truly grim, this grainy drama is based on the writer-director's memoir of his own testing teenage days in New York's rundown Queens district, where it was tough to survive and tougher to get out.

Several of Dito's friends fail to last the course in this convincingly raw but completely depressing film which has only one scene where anyone smiles. It's very slow, too, with shots of actors being held too long by the first-time director.

Downey Jr, who seems here to be acting in a permanent state of torpor, book-ends the tale as the author himself, returning to Queens for the first time in 20 years to see his mother (Wiest) and sick-father (Palminteri).

Shia LaBeouf, Channing Tatum, Melonie Diaz and Scotland's Martin Compston give their all in the cause of unrelenting grimness and misery. Dito, we know you've had a hard life, but why inflict it on us? Still, gaffe-lovers may relish the slip towards the end when a young boy calls the hero Dito without having been introduced.

David Quinlan

USA 2006. UK Distributor: Revolver. Colour by De Luxe/Du Art.
101 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 28 Feb 2007