1991 and early 1992, New York was about as depressed as depression gets. The
only ray of hope came from a series of high profile organized crime prosecutions
initiated by then U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani. Yet, somehow John Gotti, the “Teflon
Don,” kept wriggling out of the net—at least until Sammy “the Bull Gravano”
turned state’s evidence. His testimony would also reveal the locations of several
mafia-affiliated “social clubs” in open court. Tommy Uva used this information
for the extraordinarily daring but not particularly well thought out crime
spree that inspired Raymond De Felitta’s Rob
the Mob (trailer
opens today in New York.
is a loser, but Rosemarie loves him anyway. However, the rest of the Uva family
still blames him and his lowlife ways for the death of his father. Uva on the
other hand, vehemently blames the mafia loan sharks for their family tragedy.
You could say he has a bit of a complex when it comes to wiseguys.
a brief prison stretch, Uva gets a job with Rosemarie’s debt collection agency—probably
the only business hiring during the Dinkins years. However, he is preoccupied
with the Gotti trial. When he hears Gravano explain guns are verboten in their
neighborhood front clubs, Uva hatches a very dangerous idea explained pretty
clearly by the film’s three word title. One night, he takes in a pretty paltry
score, but one of the old-timers at the Waikiki Club happened to be carrying
something seriously incriminating.
films go, Rob is about as New York as
it gets. The period details are spot-on and the attitude is razor sharp. Nobody
cares what the New York Times has to
say in their milieu. The journalist who gets the Uvas’ story is naturally the Post’s organized crime beat writer,
Jerry Cardozo. De Felitta (better known for dramedies like City Island and docs, such as ‘Tis Autumn), deftly juggles the large ensemble of gangsters, cops, reporters,
and Uvas, maintaining an appealingly gritty vibe.
the ace up De Felitta’s sleeve is once again Andy Garcia, who plays the composite
don of dons “Big Al” Fiorello with tragic dignity worthy of a Shakespearean figure.
As Garcia slowly reveals his backstory, we come to understand Fiorello reluctantly
reached his current position through a strange twist of fate. He is a
complicated figure, but he is about the only ethically nuanced gangster. In
contrast, his underlings are a craven lot and just about everyone on either side
of the side thinks Gotti is complete pond scum.
he does not quite knock it out of the park like Garcia (partly because De
Felitta does not pitch him comparably fat fast balls over the plate), Ray
Romano’s characteristic nervous energy and deadpan delivery still nicely serve
Cardozo, a substantially straight dramatic role. While their over-the-top outer
borough affectations are rather off-putting at first, Michael Pitt and Nina
Arianda still develop some rather touching (and convincingly reckless) screen
chemistry as the couple ironically dubbed “Bonnie and Clyde” by Fiorello’s
gang. However, for real old school street cred, nobody can touch Burt Young
doing his thing as aging mob lieutenant Joey D.
Granted, everyone will readily form an educated
guess of the general direction Rob is
headed, even if they are not familiar with the Uvas’ case, but De Felitta’s
sure-footed execution will still keep viewers keyed in from start to finish.
Featuring an award-worthy supporting turn from Garcia, Rob is one of the best American gangster films in several years.
Particularly recommended for New Yorkers (who might be getting a glimpse of our
de Blasio future as well as our Dinkins past), Rob the Mob opens today (3/21) at the Angelika Film Center.
Labels: Andy Garcia, Gangster Films, New York Cinema, Raymond De Felitta