HUNGRY GHOSTS, THE

Director: Michael Imperioli
Writer: Michael Imperioli
Cast: Steve Schirripa, Anjunae Ellis, Nick Sandow, Sharon Angela
Release Date: 02/05/2010  (film festival)
                     11/02/2010 (DVD)

Buddhist texts describe “hungry ghosts” as people who’ve died but can’t let go of life — a centuries-old metaphor applied to a handful of 21st-century New Yorkers struggling to gain spiritual satisfaction in this Michael Imperioli-helmed drama. Aunjanue Ellis and Nick Sandow portray a couple whose breakup threatens to undo them both, sending them separately into the human jungle of New York at night to find whatever redemption they can.

Steven Schirripa’s drug addicted late night radio talk show host is more or less the main character here (and he plays it well enough to keep you more or less invested in the outcome of his character) but its outpatient (and 90 day chip holder) Nick Sandow who absolutely stands out at the beginning as the character to keep your eye on–the movie’s wild card if you will—and every time he appeared back on screen i kept thinking we were finally gonna go somewhere really interesting with him–but after a while he becomes not so much a character as much as a mouthpiece for the movie’s beat poetry and philosophical rhapsodies—the last half of the movie his plot line is largely reduced to scenes of him quoting poetry into his cellphone while trying to reach his ex girlfriend–who’s stuck in an even more uninvolved plot line of her own.

Anjunae Ellis is another wasted character–she spends most of the movie wandering around trying to find a place to crash–mostly avoiding attempts at interaction including frequent phone calls from Sandow’s character–all of which begs the question–what the heck is she doing with a cellphone in the first place?–the woman is a virtually homeless nomad–her most memorable scene is almost getting into a fight with the owner of a building whose stoop she’s eating dinner and resting on. The vignette-style screenplay has a contrived, theatrical feel, with the characters often delivering the sort of explicitly meaningful monologues that no doubt would resonate better onstage.

The DVD comes with a photo gallery and a trailer for the film. The A/V Quality is sharp enough for a recent indie, but it lacks any A/V punch. Still, it’s nice to spend the Fall watching a quieter movie from some of the amazing talent that made The Sopranos. Just don’t expect any mob violence in this New York tale. At times, you’ll be reminded of Eric Bogosian monologues while watching the film. Therefore, I’d recommend a double feature with “Talk Radio”. It’s a rental.

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