ROB THE MOB – The Review
There are many ways a person can commit suicide, quick and easy or long and slow, but the end result is all the same. One way, for example, would be to deliberately do something to royally piss off the mafia. Yes, that would just about guarantee your own demise. With this in mind, let’s talk about a film, based on a true story…
By its title, ROB THE MOB does sound like it should be a comedy about the mafia. In fact, it is actually a very funny film. I’d even say it holds its own against MY COUSIN VINNY (1992). As appealing as that is on the surface, it gets better. Not only is this a funny, entertaining movie, but it’s also based on a true story. The events in this film, or at least parts of it, actually happened… in real life!
So, why am I making such a big deal about this? Let me explain. ROB THE MOB is about a couple from Queens, New York who decide their big break will be to steal from the mafia, i.e. “Rob the Mob.” Sounds pretty straight forward, right? That’s how Tommy and Rosie feel about their master plan to make it big and live the high life. Tommy, played by Michael Pitt, is a stick-up man and his girlfriend Rosie, played by Nina Arianda, is the getaway driver. Together, they are a match made on the mean streets and a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde.
Tommy and Rosie both get pinched, do their time, then make an effort to live a straight life once out of the slammer. By chance, or by twist of fate, this coincides with the trial of notorious modern-day mob boss John Gotti. Tommy gets the idea to attend the trial as a spectator where he learns about mafia social clubs peppered around New York City where gangsters hang out and no guns are allowed. Unfortunately for Tommy, a light bulb goes off and his big plan is hatched. He’ll knock off a mafia social club, because mobsters always have lots of cash, no danger of getting shot, and no danger of getting caught because a mobster isn’t going to call the cops. On the surface, this is a brilliant plan. The problem, of course, is that neither Tommy or Rosie are the sharpest criminals.
ROB THE MOB, written by Jonathan Fernandez and directed by Raymond De Felitta, pulls headlines right out of the newspaper that scream to be glamorized on the big screen. Many of those very headlines may have actually existed, as written by journalist Jerry Cardozo, played by Ray Romano. Tommy and Rosie actually succeed in this insane endeavor, at first. However, as greed sets in as it so often does, the best laid plans go to waste. Tommy and Rosie get sloppy, overly confident and seduced by fame. Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda play fully into their roles and there is no doubt in the viewers’ minds that the characters were anything other than the World’s Dumbest Criminals candidates they appear to be on film. With that said, you can’t hep but fall in love with them and root for them as they continue on they Robin Hood spree at the mafia’s expense, all while certain tragedy lies waiting just around the dark and violent corner up ahead.
Big Al, played by Andy Garcia, plays the mysterious mob boss running the show in the absence of John Gotti. Despite the unbelievable antics and humorous real-life scenarios taking place, Big Al — despite his stereotypical nick name — provides a dramatic, philosophical element to the story that helps to level off the humor and grounds the story in a lesson of morality. Garcia is magnificent as the calm, mild-tempered mob boss who has a secret past and an unconventional view of the family’s future. Perhaps the best performance, however, is a rather short one provided by Burt Young as Joey D, an aging mobster who holds the key to the mafia’s survival or downfall. In this key scene, whereas Joey D encounters Tommy in one of the mafia social clubs, emotions run high, tension is taught and someone gets beaten like a sack of potatoes. If not for being such a short and limited scene, I’d already be screaming for a Supporting Actor Oscar nod… but, let’s be realistic.
Music. It plays a key role in ROB THE MOB as well. The film takes place circa 1992(ish) but the music is much more timeless, evoking an era far more indicative of the mafia’s hay days. Stephen Endelman composes the original music while accompanied by tracks from The Staple Singers’ “City In the Sky” and Wilson Pickett’s “Somethin’ You Got.” The opening sequence of the film, however, oddly sets the mood in an unexpected use of Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is In the Heart.” Trust me when I say it sounds odd at first, but quickly makes sense and certainly amps the viewer to the appropriate energy level for what’s about to take place.
ROB THE MOB ends on a bitter-sweet note. The film tells a story that is both funny and tragic. A story of two young lovers whose hearts are in the right place but at the expense of their intellect. A story of two reckless dreamers who steal from those far worse than themselves, but are abandoned by those sworn to protect them. BONNIE & CLYDE, TRUE ROMANCE, NATURAL BORN KILLERS… all films with a similar theme and sense of moral ambiguity, but none will capture your heart in quite the same way as Tommy and Rosie.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Hopeless film enthusiast; reborn comic book geek; artist; collector; cookie connoisseur; curious to no end