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An Unromantic Look at Boston

Boston has become an active location for independent filmmakers, but the portrait they paint isn't always flattering. While the romantic "Next Stop Wonderland" uses bright colors and energizing music to lighten its sometimes doleful story, the downbeat "Southie" proved a somber and sometimes violent experience when director John Shea presented its premire at the Montreal filmfest.

Monument Ave. takes place in a different neighborhood but tells a similar tale of loyalty, rivalry, and betrayal in one of the city's staunchly Irish-American sections. Named after a street that divides long-entrenched residents from privileged yuppies moving into the area, it focuses on a small-time crime boss called Jackie O. and a budding criminal.

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"Monument Ave." follows in the footsteps of too many like-minded movies, dating back to "Mean Streets" and beyond, to be called original or surprising. It also has a weakness for self-conscious dialogue scenes that resemble acting exercises more than real life. But it has some chillingly suspenseful moments.

The good cast includes Colm Meany as the boss, Denis Leary as the edgy youngster, Billy Crudup as the ex-convict, and Martin Sheen as the cop.

* Rated R; contains violence, foul language, an ugly scene of racial hatred.

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