Monument Avenue

Ted Demme's Monument Avenue, a bleak, downbeat but compelling movie, based on Mike Armstrong script, is also a Mean Streets offshoot. Like Scorsese's work, it's a movie imbued with raw power, suspense and looming dread.

Only one street divides between the old Boston neighborhood of Charlestown, where Irish working class people settled a century ago, and the surrounding, gentrified area. Bobby O'Grady (Denis Leary) and his pals, whose aimless lives consist of hanging out in the local bar, resent the intrusion of yuppies into their neighborhood.

At 33, Bobby still lives with his parents, passively accepting his position in life. Bobby is more intelligent than his friend Mouse (Ian Hart) or Seamus (Jason barry), his cousin from Dublin, and while he is too smart not to see his life disintegrating, he is not strong enough to do something about it.

All the types of this subgenre exist in the film, including a veteran Irish cop (Martin Sheen) from across the bridge. Code of silence in Charlestown allows most murders to go unresolved. When one of Bobby's cousins, Ted (Billy Crudup), out of prison and high, talks loud and loose in a crowded bar, the local crime boss, Jackie (Colm Meaney), guns him down. Celebrating male bonding, it's a society that includes women; there's only one woman over whom there's rivalry. Bobby has an affair with Jackie's girl, Katy (Famke Janssen), but neither Bobby nor Jackie has time for her.

Forming a clique of criminals closely tied to each other by kinship or friendship, they're imprisoned by rigid codes of behavior that exclude any possibility for change. When they spot a black man walking on the turf, Bobby displaces the rage of his frustrations to some disastrous effects.