Take a Drink: for John Gotti
Take a Drink: for self-help rhetoric
Take a Drink: for each robbery
Take a Drink: for the list
Do a Shot: for flowers shops
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
You gotta love a title like Rob the Mob. It just lays it all out there, without any pretension or cutesy cleverness. This is a movie about robbing the mob, so just let me get it out there, will ya?
It’s like titling this King Stutters Needs an Oscar
Rob the Mob is indeed about two seedy New Yorkers (Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda) in the early 90s who see a rich, weakening old organization on its way out and ripe to take advantage of… the Mob. Predictably they, especially their calculating Don Big Al (Andy Garcia), don’t take too kindly to that.
This is the type of setup that cheap DVD bin throw-aways starring lesser Baldwin brothers revel in, but director Raymond de Felitta knows exactly what he wants to accomplish with this story, and accomplish it he does. He’s not just making a true crime story, or the umpteenth Bonnie and Clyde knockoff to chase a few dollars. He’s making a portrait not just of these two crazy kids, but of 1991 New York, of a city just beginning to clean off the sleaze, and a time where the John Gotti trial signaled a curtain call for the Mob’s former dominance.
He recreates this setting immersively, with a certain nostalgia for the end of an era, but an acknowledgement of its evils. He also employs some nice stylistic flair, from grainy 70s filmstock and Super 8 footage for flashbacks to perfectly deployed music to judicious and inspired use of slow motion. His best directorial trait, though, is his tight control of the pace, which slowly, almost imperceptibly escalates until the characters, and the audience, suddenly find themselves outside their comfort zone, and heading to an almost inevitable, yet romantic finale. Oh, and this movie is quite funny to boot. “What’s that?” “An eggplant.”
Damndest eggplant I ever saw.
The cast is a highlight as well. By this point Michael Pitt has perfected his slightly seedy yet dynamic East Coast criminal act, and is perfectly cast here. His partner in crime, Nina Arianda, might best him, though. She’s no Broadway girl here, but street smart and very funny, reminding me in a lot of ways of a much more put together version of Jennifer Lawrence’s Rosalyn from American Hustle.
In support, Ray Romano’s always a welcome face, and Griffin Dunne steals every scene as their Coyote of Wall Street-style collections agency boss, full of corny aspirational bon mots and quite likely, quality 80s uppers. It’s Andy Garcia, though, that truly impressed me, almost unrecognizable with his Saul Berenson beard and melancholy mien. Garcia’s played his share of wiseguys, but goes to an entirely different place here, putting a human face on a Mob breathing its last gasps, and giving the film a much-needed dose of gravitas.
The archly comic, wiseguy tone can verge on the cartoony at times. Rob the Mob never quite crosses the tonal imbalance line, but it gets too close for comfort here and there.
Rob the Mob is a stylishly directed, equally funny and tragic incredible true life tale of the ballsiest Bonnie and Clydes that ever were.