Laws of Gravity
June 23, 2011
Nick Gomez’s Laws of Gravity (1992) was part of an exciting crop of American independent films to come out in the early to mid-1990’s and arguably the best of the Mean Streets (1973) wannabes to be made. It also featured a cast of young, up and coming actors that would go on to solid careers in film and television. Peter Greene and Edie Falco are probably the two most well-known to come out of this film but Adam Trese (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) and Paul Schulze (The Sopranos) also have prolific careers as regular character actors on T.V.
Set on the gritty streets of New York City, Laws of Gravity is about the relationship between two friends – Jimmy (Greene) and Jon (Trese), two small-time crooks that deal in stolen goods. Jimmy is the responsible one while Jon is the wild card always getting into trouble. When we meet them, Jon has skipped out on his court date for a shoplifting charge because he didn’t feel like showing up. Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with his girlfriend Celia (Field). Jimmy has problems of his own – he owes a sizable chunk of money to local tough guy Sal (Stein) who’s breathing down his neck. As luck would have it, Jimmy and Jon’s friend Frankie (Schulze) rolls back into town with a bunch of guns he wants to sell. Jon and Jimmy see this as an opportunity to make some fast, easy money but of course it doesn’t go as well as they planned. As Jon’s behavior gets increasingly erratic, Jimmy has to make a decision whether to stick by his friend and risk his future or cut him loose and focus on his own problems.
Gomez does a good job showing how a good-natured conversation can turn into a shouting match when Jon gets annoyed with Celia’s nagging criticisms. The dialogue and the way the scene is shot – cinema verite style – feels like we are intruding on an intimate conversation between real people. Gomez employs a restless hand-held camera, which replicates Jon’s anxious energy. He’s a schemer always looking to make some easy money and doesn’t care about who he pisses off.
Based on his solid work in Laws of Gravity, it’s amazing that Peter Greene isn’t a bigger star. He has had small but memorable parts in classic films like Pulp Fiction (1994) and The Usual Suspects (1995) but nothing as substantial as Laws of Gravity (although, there is his startling turn in the little seen Clean, Shaven). He has natural charisma and brings an authenticity to the role of Jimmy that is impressive to watch. This was also an early role for Edie Falco and she demonstrates considerable acting chops. It is easy to see why she has become such an accomplished actress.
Jimmy and Jon are constantly roaming the streets pulling petty crimes like shoplifting but to what end? They get into arguments that break into fights where nobody wins. These guys seem to have little aspirations and are content to live in the moment. Laws of Gravity is a fascinating slice of life look at people just trying to get by any way they can. It depicts the unstable relationship between two men and how it affects their friends and family. Gomez really captures how people from this social strata speak and act. His film is an under-appreciated gem waiting to be discovered and will hopefully find new life thanks to MGM’s MOD program.