Premiere - 09/01/2006
"Shia LaBeouf, as the young Montiel, is galvanizing..."
New York Times - 09/29/2006
"[T]hough the picture is wrenching, at times devastating, it leaves you with that buoyant feeling of having encountered a raw, authentic work of art."
Entertainment Weekly - 10/06/2006
"This gallantly imperfect indie pops with attitude." -- Grade: B+
Sight and Sound - 03/01/2007
"[I]t's Montiel's skill with the actors, particularly those he's recruited to play Dito's childhood buddies...that remains the film's overriding strength."
Total Film - 04/01/2007 4 stars out of 5 -- "Downey Jr and Rosario Dawson are reliably on the money..."
Writer Dito Montiel's highly cinematic memoir of his childhood in Queens, New York, makes the leap to the big screen, with the author himself getting behind the camera to helm this powerful, and at times gut-wrenching, adaptation. The film flits back and forth between the adult Montiel's (Robert Downey Jr.) emotional return to the neighborhood after a 15-year gap, and the childhood antics that led to his younger self (played by Shia LeBouf) fleeing to Los Angeles in 1986. Downey's older brother Montiel is an introspective, quietly successful author who comes home after he is informed of his father's (Chazz Palminteri) life-threatening illness. LeBouf's teenage Montiel is a young tearaway who runs into constant trouble with his gang of friends, falls in love with local looker Laurie (Rosario Dawson), and dreams of an escape from the city with his Scottish friend, Mike (Martin Compston).
The balance of the film tilts in favor of the kids, with most of the action taking place in 1986. These scenes acutely capture the punishing heat of the New York City summer, with the teenage gang soaked in sweat and dirt as they trample through their crumbling Queens ghetto. Channing Tatum gives a terrifying performance as Montiel's violent young friend, Antonio, and Palminteri is equally intimidating, filling the screen with palpable rage as he barks at the older and younger versions of his son. The skittish narrative makes frequent lurches through the decades, and also sees characters frequently breaking the fourth wall by directly addressing the audience, recalling the work of writer-director team Guillermo Arriaga and Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 GRAMS, AMORES PERROS). Montiel couples this with the gritty stylistic verve of classic New York movies such as MEAN STREETS and SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, ultimately transforming SAINTS into the perfect distillation of two separate eras in an ever-evolving city.