Rob the Mob

***

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (Give us your rating!!)
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You steal from them, they never stop looking for you.

Rob the Mob

The H-Bomb: Small time hood Tommy (Michael Pitt) is released from the joint after doing an 18 month stretch for armed robbery and returns to the Bronx with his girlfriend, Rosie (Nina Arianda), who finds him a job working the phones at a collection agency. Tommy soon grows bored with his straight gig and starts playing hooky from work to go sit in on the trial of famed gangster, John Gotti. While listening to some stoolie testify about their social clubs, particularly the part where he mentions that no one carries a gun in a social club, Tommy gets an idea.

See, Tommy has always had a chip on his shoulder when it comes to mobsters, mainly for the way they used to bully and harass his father, and since this collection agency job just isn’t cutting it, money-wise, he comes up with an insane scheme to stick up a mafia social club. After figuring out how to work an Uzi, he somehow procured, Tommy recruits an understandably reluctant Rosie as his getaway driver, and he’s off to stick it to the mob…by sticking up the mob.

His first heist goes off without a hitch, aside from his Uzi constantly going off accidentally, and Tommy is completely taken aback by how much money he brought in, and by how freaking easy it was. Rightly emboldened, he decides to do it again, and again, growing more confident, and less cautious, with each score. Not only is Tommy royally embarrassing the mob with these scores, he has, by chance, come into possession of a list, a list that could shake up the mobsters’ power structure and land many of them in the slammer.

While all this is fun and games for Tommy and Rosie, who have been branded a modern Bonnie and Clyde in the press, this young and relatively dumb couple has unwittingly given the mob a reason far more serious than retribution to take them out…survival.

Based on the real life exploits of Thomas and Rosemarie Uva, who conducted their robbing spree back in ’92, Rob the Mob approaches its potentially dark subject matter in a somewhat lighthearted fashion. I wouldn’t call it a mob comedy, a’la Get Shorty or Analyze This, however, director Raymond De Felitta does bring a naturalistic sense of humor to the proceedings, particularly when Tommy, who has to be the clumsiest stick up man ever, bumbles his way through the robberies. The mobsters’ incredulous, deer-in-headlights reaction to being held up, and the humiliating act that Tommy forces them to perform at the end of one of the heists, are genuinely laugh out loud funny.

At first, the mildly humorous tone set against a gritty, gloomy NYC backdrop struck me as odd, but as the picture wore on, I was won over by the so-absurd-it-has-to-be-true story as well as by the likable, engaging performances of the two leads. Pitt is an actor I’ve liked ever since I first saw him in The Dreamers some ten years ago, and even though I didn’t initially buy him as a street tough kid from the Bronx, he did grow on me. As Tommy’s better half, Rosie, Arianda is a revelation. She is irresistibly feisty and ballsy, and her chemistry with Pitt is organic and genuine. They do make quite the larcenistic couple. Is larcenistic even a word? Fuck it, it is now.

As good as Pitt and Arianda are, they are backed up by a colorful supporting cast that is, for the most part, first rate. The standouts for me include Griffin Dunne as Tommy and Rosie’s unnaturally cheerful boss at the collection agency, Frank Whaley as a shifty federal agent who sells information to the press, and Michael Rispoli as the utterly bewildered mob enforcer pursuing our Bonnie and Clyde wannabes. Best of all is Andy Garcia, who brings a grace and a grandfatherly charm, along with a subtle sense of menace, to the role of underworld kingpin, Big Al. Yeah, I know the character is responsible for many off camera deeds that would make him a monster, but the gentle, understated touch Garcia gives him makes the guy strangely sympathetic.

Out of all the supporting players, the only one who didn’t work for me was Ray Romano, who just sticks out like a sore thumb as the journalist covering Tommy and Rosie’s misadventures. I don’t know if it’s his TV persona, or just that the script didn’t give him much of a character to work with, but I found his presence here distracting. Another problem the film has is the ending, which I’ll try not to spoil. It’s an extremely over-the-top, romanticized, bullshit ending that the movie really did not earn. That’s all I can say about that, though if you know how things ended for Tommy and Rosie in real life (God bless Google), then you might know what I’m getting at.

All things considered, Rob the Mob is a modestly entertaining flick based on a peculiar true life incident. It’s far from life changing, and in six months time I’ll barely remember anything about it, but it is worthwhile for anyone interested in a crime caper that’s most definitely off the beaten path.

 

 


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