This feels like one of the best Scorsese films in years, except it’s not. Instead we have the directorial debut of Danny Abeckaser, who mixes pragmatism and power in such a spellbinding manner… you are bound to be instantly compelled and engaged. Abeckaser (founder of 2B studios) can be recognized from his recent hit comedy A Standup Guy, as well as intricate parts in The Iceman, Wolf of Wall Street, Club Life, and Holy Rollers. Here though, Danny A (which many refer him by) accomplishes a cinematic trifecta that’s become a rarity in today’s world of filmmaking.
By directing, starring, and writing First We Take Brooklyn, we get a sense this has been Abeckaser’s gem for quite some time. And boy does this gem shine, showcasing Abeckaser’s evident talent in all 3 stages – You find yourself savoring every moment of this authentically sprawling mob epic.
Based in NYC, the film follows Mikki Levy (Abeckaser), a man who’s serving a life sentence in one of Israel’s most rugged prisons. When released early because of a technicality, Levy moves to New York to embark on a new journey. However, living with his uncle in Brooklyn, the harsh reality of being an ex-con emerges, getting wrenched into a callous turf war with the Russian mob.
Now entangled with organized crime, Levy must revisit his chilling past… along with the survival skills he accomplished while in confinement. Swiftly advancing through the ranks of the underworld, the relentlessness that bolsters his prosperity, may also be the very root of his downfall.
With faultless writing, characterization, and the majestic performances from actors reveling in the material provided, First We Take Brooklyn is a keenly robust film that stays with you for days. Reason being? Abeckaser builds the film to such a subtle, but powerful crescendo that you find yourself constantly pleading for more.
Indeed, Abeckaser is one hell of a conductor, but he also makes the film sing with his leading-man performance. In this portrayal, he epitomizes grit, passion, and dominance to a point where those superlatives don’t even do him justice. One can’t help but reminisce of an ambitious young Pachino while gazing from shot to shot.
Harvey Keitel bodes well as the vengeful boss of a Russian syndicate, as Charlotte McKinney and AnnaLynne McCord also captivate in superb roles. It’s clear that both actresses are noticeably on their way up to the top of Hollywood stardom.
The movie’s only paltry weakness is a bit of unevenness which develops in the first hour, but that ultimately gets forgotten as a result of the films numerous achievements. First We Take Brooklyn balances a supply of empathy with moments of violence better than any film in recent memory. A unique and complex take on real aspects of the mob, and a man having to do what he knows best in order to survive – This film is the must see of 2018 thus far.
By Brandon Colón