17 June 2003 | manuel-pestalozzi
Decidedly unromantic mobster movie - with a hit man reading Sartre!
I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. It is a powerful antidote against dramatized, romanticized gangster sagas like The Godfather or Goodfellas. Apparently based on actual facts, the movie is the story of a New York Mafia boss's son. He tries to help his father because he thinks it is his filial duty.
There is a gang war on. Gangsters go into hiding. They are constantly in limbo. The father is in hiding. The son goes into hiding, in a different place. He is accompanied by an old, seasoned hit man - a magnificent performance by Richard S. Castellano of Godfather fame. As the two men just sit and wait - but wait for what? - in a shabby downtown apartment, the hit man passes the time reading Sartre's Being and Nothingness!
There is a fine sense of the absurd throughout this movie. The son hasn't got a clue what he is supposed to do. He just stands around asking everybody: What is going on? He never finds out. (Probably a chicken stolen somewhere in Sicily a hundred years ago, he suggests). Joe Bologna gives a wonderful portrait of Salvatore Bonanno. He plays a basically good natured, normal guy who can't cope with the circumstances that direct his life. It is wonderful how Bologna always has this strained expression on his face as Salvatore Bonanno tries to listen well and to understand. He has a wife and kids, and he wants to procure a respectable family life for them. His wife is scared and angry; she does not want to put up with a bunch of snoring, farting mobsters in her living room night after night!
Joe Bologna is paired with legendary italian actor Raf Vallone who plays Joe Bonanno, the father. And they really are a minor dream team! There is a model case of two people who can not communicate, although they really love each other. This is best shown in the final parting scene, when the son has to go to jail. They don't know what so say, they just stand, looking at each other. Finally the father shows the son his school report from Sicily he accidentally found while clearing out a desk. "Ninety in maths. Not bad, eh?" These are the father's cryptical final words. The son as usual doesn't know what to answer.
I guess the famous TV series The Sopranos owes more to this movie than to any of Coppola's or Scorsese's pictures.