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Davidson delivers a courageous & hilarious performance in “The King of Staten Island”

Updated: Jun 5, 2022


Actor/comedian/co-producer and co-writer Pete Davidson plays Scott Carlin, who still suffers from the loss of his father, who had been a New York City firefighter.

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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2020; R for language and drug use throughout, sexual content and some violence/bloody images; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: “The Kid from Staten Island” featurette

THIS HEARTWARMING comedy/drama directed and co-written by Judd Apatow (“The 40-year-old Virgin,” “Trainwreck”), was inspired by elements from actor/comedian/co-producer and co-writer Pete Davidson’s (“Saturday Night Live”) life growing up on Staten Island.

Davidson gives a courageous, ego-free, and often hilarious performance. He plays Scott Carlin, a lovable loser in his 20s who still lives with, and is dependent upon, his mother Margie (Marisa Tomei). Scott’s sister Claire (Maude Apatow, daughter of the director) is about to leave home to go to college. Scott is involved in a longtime non-committed relationship with Kelsey (Bel Powley). And he has maintains the (rather impractical) dream of opening a tattoo parlor that’s also a restaurant.

But most significantly, he still hasn’t recovered from the death of his father, who died fighting a fire when Scott was a child. And when, for the first time since his father’s death, Margie shows interest in another man, Scott doesn’t take it at all well — especially since the man, Ray (Bill Burr), happens to be a firefighter, attached to the same engine company as his deceased father.

Before long, Margie has had enough of the confrontations between Ray and Scott, and orders them both to get lost, effectively kicking Scott out of the house. Homeless, and without resources, Scott’s last resort is sleeping in the firehouse. And that’s where he is, often painfully, forced to grow up and open his heart. Thanks to all the actors’ very fine performances, as well as the many local non-actors who took part in the production, the sharp script, and the many very funny laughs, the rather contrived sentimental finale totally succeeds.

(1) "The King of Staten Island" opens with Scott contemplating suicide while driving. (2) Scott's tattoo 2-19-4 marks the day his father died in the line-of-duty. (3&4) Scott's friends hang out in the basement and play video games and smoke pot. Center, Kelsey (Bel Powley), and her friend Tara (Carly Aquilino) want to go dancing, while Scott and his friend Oscar (Ricky Velez) tell a knock-knock joke.



As Universal continues to ramp up with the release of catalog titles on 4K disc – with the likes of “Spartacus,” “The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection” and the “Back to the Future Trilogy,” the studio continues to bypass recent video-on-demand and theatrical non-action films on the higher resolution disc. “Staten Island” joins “The High Note” and “Emma.”, as an exclusive Universal 4K/HDR release on digital platforms.

Apatow and Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Elswit (“There Will Be Blood,” “Good Night, and Good Luck.”) captured Davidson’s story on traditional 35mm film (2.39:1 aspect ratio), with an abundance of natural light and handheld cameras. IMDb states that it was mastered in TRUE 4K, but it's not apparent since many of the wide shots have minimal lighting producing a smaller field of focus. Natural film grain dances across the screen from the Super 35 format, which is more visible on Vudu's 4K presentation, while Apple TV (iTunes) continues to soften the grain.

The HDR10 and Dolby Vision toning have more on-screen pop with its deeper blacks, controlled highlights, and precise facial colors compared to the 1080p versions on disc or digital.

Overall “Staten Island” is a nice 4K upgrade, and we can only hope Universal gives it the same consideration it gave Oscar-winner “Parasite,” which premiered on 4K disc several months after arriving on digital on Blu-ray.


The 4K (digital) and Blu-ray both provide the active eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack for your height speakers for effects and music cues. Its most apparent during the baseball game, college nightclub scene, and the active fire sequences. “Staten Island” includes excellent bass response with a nice mix between hip-hop and pop tunes with “Just What I Am” with King Chip, “Your Love” with The Jades, “Down on the Corner” with Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Head over Heels” with The Go-Go’s and “Never Did I Stop Loving You” with Alice Clark.

(1) After a late-night, Scott's mother Margie (Marisa Tomei) still makes him breakfast. (2) Left, Scott's sister Claire (Maude Apatow), his mother Margie, and Claire's best friend Joanne (Pauline Chalamet) have a high school graduation party. (3) Scott is all alone after Claire and Joanne drive away heading to college.



The many bonus features on the Universal disc and digital are worth the time. They include a commentary by Apatow and Davidson; alternate endings which “didn’t work”; a gag reel; some variations online readings; Apatow’s video production diaries; featurettes on Davidson, Bill Burr, Bel Powley, Maude Apatow, Marisa Tomei, the three actors who play Scott’s best friends (Ricky Velez, Moises Aria, and Lou Wilson), Pete’s grandfather (who has a cameo), and Steve Buscemi; excerpts from a benefit comedy concert for Friends of Firefighters; a tribute to Scott Davidson (Pete’s real father); a look at the authentic firehouse scenes; casting; and several video phone calls related to the production.

In the 20-minute-long featurette, “The Kid From Staten Island,” Davidson’s real mother and sister explain that he was never really allowed to grieve for his father, who died on Sept. 11, 2001, when Pete was nine. He was whisked from Disneyworld to Washington, D.C. to meet President Bush; handled with kid gloves by adults; and treated like “the 9/11 kid” by his schoolmates — and therefore didn’t have a chance to process his feelings, which resulted in years of emotional and physical problems.

Apatow says the movie was a way for Davidson to express what he’d been through, albeit at a remove, and in a completely fictional setting — and to imagine “what Pete’s life would have been if he didn’t find comedy and leave Staten Island.” Apatow first met Davidson on the set of “Trainwreck,” when the actor was only 19.

(1) Scott and his friends are asked to leave a basketball court at an abandoned housing project. (2) Scott mistakenly starts to give nine-year-old Harold (Luke David Blumm) a tattoo. (3) Harold's father Ray Bishop (Bill Burr) shows Margie the permanent mark from Scott's tattoo needle. (4) Ray takes Margie out for some coffee, which leads to so much more.


Davidson, who is 26 now, admits that one of the hardest parts of the production was spending time in the firehouse where his father had worked and spent many a night. Some of the real firemen who had also worked there and knew Davidson’s father had cameos in the film. Steve Buscemi, who was actually a firefighter for a few years in real life, plays the “elder” in the fire station. Apatow says that Davidson’s character, who repeatedly asserts that firemen should never have families, gradually begins to understand why people are willing to die for others.

Davidson talks about his personal moments of despair, including an instance replicated in the opening scene of the film — when he shuts his eyes for a few seconds while driving in traffic, and just barely avoids a potentially fatal accident. Apatow says that one thing Davidson wanted to do with the movie was to make “micro-apologies to the people in his life.”

— Peggy Earle

(1) Scott shows up at Gina's (Pamela Adlon), Ray's ex-wife's, house to walk their kids, Harold (Luke David Blumm) and Kelly (Alexis Rae Forlenza) to school. (2) In an attempt at bonding with Scott, Ray takes him to a Staten Island baseball game with some fellow firemen. (3) Scott and his buddies (l. to r.): Igor (Moisés Arias), Oscar (Ricky Velez), and Richie (Lou Wilson). (4) Scott is the lookout while the guys rob a pharmacy. (5) Scott visits Ricky in prison. 


(1) Scott and Ray's relationship boils over into a backyard fight. (2) After being kicked out of the house, Scott ends up at the firehouse. (3&4) In time he's accepted at the station and starts to tattoo Ray's back. (4) Scott takes an injured man to the emergency room.


Scott takes in Manhattan after escorting Kelsey on the Staten Island ferry, so she can take the New York City Civil Service test.




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