Little Odessa (1996): Charged Crime Drama, Starring Tim Roth, Maxmillian Schell, Vanessa Redgrave and Edward Furlong

This highly charged crime melodrama, which is James Gray’s impressive directorial debut, describes the effects of the homecoming of a hit man named Joshua Shapira (Tim Roth) on his family members as well as the neighborhood’s Russian mob.

Somber and dark for a writer-director who’s only 24, Little Odessa was nonetheless an assured piece of filmmaking that benefited immensely from the superb performances of the entire cast: Maximillian Schell as Arkady, the cold patriarch who hates his corrupt son Joshua; Vanessa Redgrave as Irina, his goodhearted dying mother, and Edward Furlong, as Joshua’s younger, admiring brother Reuben, who takes long to understand that his brother is rotten.

The Russian Jewish community that provides the backdrop for “Little Odessa,” Gray’s stylishly dark and detached drama that’s pregnant with Freudian psychology and pretentious symbolic meanings.

The film is well shot by cinematographer Tom Richmond whose snowy imagery reinforces the saga’s relentlessly somber mood that also established by Dana Sano’s ominous score.

“Little Odessa” was nominated for several Spirit Awards, including Best First Feature, Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Actress for Vanessa Redgrave, who actually looks Russian.