Dir: Robert Moresco, 2006, USA, 107mins
Cast: James Marsden, Giovanni Ribisi, Brad Renfro
US Marine Tommy (Marsden) is facing years behind bars in a military prison for assaulting his commanding officer when an FBI agent makes him an offer he can’t refuse; return to the states, infiltrate the mob and turn informer for the Feds. As an added bonus, his brother Vincent (Renfro) and cousin Joey (Ribisi) will escape punishment for their involvement in the Pennsylvania crime scene.
Propelled by decent performances from a talented cast, 10th & Wolf motors along in an entertaining fashion for the regulation hour and three quarters without ever quite making it into the pantheon of ‘better than average’ mafia movies. With the talent available this is something of a surprise - writer and director Robert Moresco has a track record as a decent storyteller; after all, he wrote the Oscar winning screenplay for CRASH (2004). Then again he does have ‘previous’ in this territory - as writer/director he was behind One Eyed King (2001), a straight to video depiction of life in Hell’s Kitchen based on his experiences growing up in a tough neighbourhood from an Irish American perspective. By coincidence 10th and Wolf gained limited release for its depiction of life in an American City from an Italian American perspective. Perhaps you can tell that there is something of a pattern developing here; make films about your experience of contemporary life in LA to the acclaim of your peers (and multi-million dollar returns) or revisit a ‘romanticised’ macho, mafia past and hope to make back your budget on the DVD.
The themes of 10th & Wolf are the same as all Mafia movies - honour, family, revenge – and therein lies the problem. We know the genre so well that it feels possible to plot the film in advance – when Joey’s dad is killed, we know that Joey will take revenge, we expect the brutal hit man to meet a sticky end and do not doubt that the beautiful widow will fall for the hero. While the movie is entertaining enough we feel that, we have seen it all before.
Bearing this in mind perhaps the best way to enjoy 10th & Wolf would be to watch in the company of a close and trusted friend, a Consigliere if you will, sharing a bottle of grappa and an oversized bowl of pasta. Each ‘player’ would draw up a list of clichés from the best gangster films of the last thirty-five years (the holy of holies being The Godfather (1972)) and use these as the basis of Mafia Bingo. For example if while watching the film a character says ‘I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse’ or someone unexpectedly discovers a horses head in their bed then you can strike these off your list. It needn’t be specific lines or scenes – stylistic touches such as a Goodfellas’ (1990) freeze frame can also be included to give the game extra pep. Nor should more modern sets such as a pole-dancing bar be eliminated just because they are more familiar from Tony Soprano’s TV stomping ground. The Sopranos gets honorary movie status for our purposes.
The first player to tick off all ten clichés should shout out ‘Vincent and Joey sleep with the fishes!’ Toast your success then sit back and enjoy the remaining hour and a half of the film.
A ‘behind the scenes’ look at the film making process interspersed with crew and talent praising one another. Good natured and moderately interesting.
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