Hollywood may have supplanted the East Coast as the center of American movie production fairly early in the 20th century, but New York has always managed to carve out a special place for itself in the film world. Of the subgenre of films built specifically around the characters, textures, and overall feel of New York City, some are very good (Naked City, Do The Right Thing), but too many are blindingly mediocre. Sad to say, the new Lesser Prophets is, like many entries in the second category, too much in love with the sights and sounds of New York to bother with believable, empathetic characters or a coherent plot. John Turturro stars as a dim-witted neighborhood guy who develops a strong attachment to Elizabeth Perkins, the battered girlfriend of a vicious small-time hood and the mother of an adorable urchin. To help Perkins, Turturro becomes involved in a messy plan that somehow involves three mild-mannered bookies, several corpses, a crooked college-football game, and a wisecracking detective (Scott Glenn) with a pregnant wife (Amy Brenneman). But while director William DeVizia's affection for the film's locale is palpable, so, too, is his inability to tell an interesting or even vaguely believable story. Much of Lesser Prophets goes nowhere, and once things do coalesce into something resembling a discernible narrative, it's only through a series of woefully implausible coincidences. It doesn't help that, while Turturro's character was likely envisioned as a lovable, eccentric loser, he comes off as merely a monumental irritation. Much of the supporting cast is similarly wasted, particularly Brenneman, whose dialogue mostly just revolves around her character's chronic inability to control her bladder.

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