Sunday, 19 May 2013

No.192 : Witness to the Mob

Witness to the Mob at the IMDb

 More TV movie true crime now as the merit free life story of  mob underling Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano gets the ‘Goodfellas-lite’ treatment.

We open in the present day as the orange jump-suited Sammy considers his life having spent the last decade behind bars. In a familiar narrative style we dissolve back to his youth and chart his progress through the ranks of the New York mafia. We occasional revisit Sammy in the present day and we are treated to his voiceover throughout as he makes obvious observations and ridiculous statements to justify his worthless existence.

The flashback opens with Sammy’s hair a few shades darker, but he’s still as fat. He’s hanging about with Christopher out of ‘The Sopranos’ and trying to make an impression on the local boss. He gets some tips from the Library Detective off ‘Seinfeld’ and carries out a blood free hit on a man sitting in the front of his car. The film’s TV movie credentials are clear from the off when the hit is devoid of blood and no one says ‘motherfucker’.

Soon Sammy has a girlfriend whom he impresses by re-enacting several scenes from ‘Goodfellas’ - Bobby Vincent that ain’t! In fact the whole film from its ‘rise and fall’ storyline to the narrative device of the flashback and voiceover is lifted wholesale from that much better film and although we are dealing with gangsters here, you’d have thought they’d have shown some decency and mix stuff up just a little bit, but they don’t.

The excuse would no doubt be that this is a true story and sure enough Tom Sizemore shows up as John Gotti. Our man soon ingratiates himself with the Teflon Don and they knock off the ageing boss, possibly because he’s the worst actor you’ve ever seen. Our man is number three in the mob now, wait number two; Frank off ‘The Sopranos’ has just been blown up. Soon our mans ascent to grace reaches its pinnacle and things start heading south - what mistake will land him in prison and will his life expectancy on release be equal to that of a chocolate éclair at a Weight Watchers meeting?

This was a really awful offering that has nothing to recommend it. It deals with gangsters but has no swearing, sex or real violence - why didn’t they do a Teletubbies film if they were so scared of offending people? In truth there was one splash of blood but that was a bucket full thrown over a jukebox when someone got shot in the head - very convincing.

The main trouble was the characters and the acting. There wasn’t a sympathetic person on show and although despicable people can be entertaining they won’t be with acting this bad. The cast was all the usual Italian American suspects with the role call looking like a try out for ‘The Sopranos’ which started the next year.

The lead played by Nicholas Turturro  was a strange casting choice as he’s a small fat man devoid of acting talent. Maybe this was a good match with the real life Sammy but some dramatic licence should clearly have been granted. Even familiar turns like Paulie walnuts and Frank from ‘The Sopranos’ were on poor form with Paulie especially poor on witnessing a hit - ‘Mamma Mia!’.

The production values were poor with one car explosion the extent of the budget. As the film ended I had no interest in the lives portrayed and it’s not because these were evil men; just flat and faceless ones.

Best Bit : Oh good the ‘made man’ scene he’s getting it …what?!
W Score 7/23

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