Twilight Time Movies: ‘State of Grace’ (1990)

Nick Clement reviews Twilight Time’s limited edition Blu-Ray titles.

State of Grace is one of those gritty, hard-hitting crime thrillers that quietly came and went when it was released in theaters back in 1990, undoubtedly overshadowed by the colossus that is Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. And while the two films couldn’t be any more different, they compliment each other in an odd way; call it Gangster Classicism from the ’90’s with some modern twists to keep things interesting. Without question the finest film of Phil Joanou’s eclectic career, State of Grace has become a cult favorite over the years, thanks to a trio of blazing performances from Sean Penn, Ed Harris, and Gary Oldman, with Robin Wright, John C. Reilly, John Turturro, and Joe Viterelli providing excellent and colorful support. Everyone came to play and offered up passionate work, which makes the emotional and visceral stakes all that much higher during the engrossing story.

Bringing in less than $2 million at the box-office after never making it out onto anything more than 350 screens, State of Grace is a hot-blooded crime noir that combines the undercover cop narrative with the feuding mobsters scenario, and the results are explosive, deadly, and extremely entertaining, especially the performances from the three big leads, with Penn doing inner demons better than ever, and Oldman and Harris sinking their teeth into some nasty genre creations. Screenwriter Dennis McIntyre never rushed through any of the events in his propulsive narrative, and as a result, none of the characters were ever short-changed. And while reminiscent of other films, State of Grace has enough personal flavor to allow it stand out in a crowded genre; I really think this was a project that suffered from an ill-timed and under-promoted release.

The technical contributions to this production are outstanding. Ennio Morricone’s elegant and operatic score heightens the mood in every scene, bring swells of intensity to the dramatic sequences, while underscoring the bits of violent action with even more sonic punch. Jordan Cronenweth’s smoky, moody, and stylized cinematography caught all of the violent shoot-outs with dazzling finesse; it always helps when you enlist the guy who shot Blade Runner and Cutter’s Way as your director of photography. And the fantastic production design by Doug Kraner and Patrizia Von Brandenstein made perfect use of NYC locations, featuring authentic Italian and Irish neighborhoods, which gave the entire piece a level of credibility that other crime films can sorely lack.

Twilight Time’s limited edition Blu-ray of State of Grace is presented in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, in 1080p high definition color, with English 5.1 DTS-HD MA sound. Picture quality is extremely sharp, but never feeling overly-digitized; this was a movie that shot with good-old-fashioned film stock, and the transfer is indicative of this fact. The disc is region free, and contains and isolated score track, audio commentary with Joanou and film historian Nick Redman, and the original theatrical trailer. State of Grace is limited to 3,000 units, and can be purchased here: State Of Grace (Blu-ray)

Twilight Time Movies release classic catalogue Blu-ray and DVD titles available for a limited time, exclusively in limited runs of 3000 copies. For more information, visit

Nick Clement is a freelance writer, having contributed to Variety Magazine, Hollywood- Elsewhere, Awards Daily, Back to the Movies, and Taste of Cinema. He’s currently writing a book about the works of filmmaker Tony Scott, and co-operates the website Podcasting Them Softly.

He is also a regular contributor for, a site dedicated to providing the best news and analysis on viral marketing and ARG campaigns for films and other forms of entertainment.

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