While this brand new film which opened today, at a few theaters and mostly On-Demand, may have the look and feel of being in Soprano territory, or being a Soprano wanna-be – you know, a North Jersey location with a North Jersey crew – however it takes place in the North End of Boston and there was only one Boston accent to be heard.
By the Gun is an oft told tale of a guy who grew up in a tough neighborhood, and when he got old enough, he wanted to graduate from being a low-life, petty criminal to becoming a made man in the local organization. The big boss, Sal Vitaglia, played by Harvey Keitel, takes a shine to this kid, Nick Tortano, played by Ben Barnes, and in what seems like a blink of an eye, soon Nicky is taking the vows of omerta, as he pledges lifelong allegiance in ‘this thing of ours‘ and he’s now a made man.
Congratulations kid, is what he hears. The thing of it is, that while Nicky earned the button, he never made his bones. It took his friend George Mullins (Slaine has the role), a loose cannon if there ever was one, to finish the assignment as Nicky froze when it came time to squeeze the trigger.
We soon meet Tony Matazano played by Ritchie Kostner, who has made a career of playing psychopaths and criminals. This Tony likes his nose candy, and beyond that he likes getting his johnson waxed as often as possible. Kostner, as usual, is so in-your-face, that he steals every scene he’s in, even when he’s about to join the hole-in-your-head gang forever.
The problem is that as soon as you lay eyes on Kostner’s Tony, you know what you’re going to see next. Ditto for the soft speaking Harvey Keitel. The casting director, Jessica Kelly, is the one person who worked on this film, who is worthy of a commendation. She’s got a great eye for character roles, and every one you see, looks just right.
If that makes you think this was a flawed film you would be right. Oh it isn’t bad, or even terrible in places. But it never has any moments that could be called a highlight. It is all so been there, done that. Everyone says the same lines we’ve seen in mob film dozens of times before. It’s the familiar see new faces telling the same old story. Director James Mottern is at the helm for only the second time in his career, and for the first time since Trucker in 2008. The screenplay was written by first timer Emilio Mauro who also produced the film.
Yeah there’s a love interest for Nicky. That would be Leighton Meester as Ali Matazano. Yeah, she’s cast as Matazano’s (Kostner’s) kid. She calls her father an asshole, and the father tells Nicky, I don’t care how many times you fuck that whore.
As expected – women don’t come off very well in this movie. There’s strippers, bartenders, pole-dancers and hoes. and none of them speak except for Ali. For that matter, in this film all we see are various of the gangland types from the lowlife section. This may be the first and only mob film I’ve ever seen that has no cops, lawyers, judges, DA’s, or crusading reporters.
So if you look at the pictures here in this review, you can get a feel of what to expect. Of course this is the same feeling you’d have if you hadn’t read the review, and actually started watching the film. There are no good guys in this Boston Mob flick. There’s no robberies or capers either. What we have, and in spades, is tough talk, macho posturing, all done by the numbers by a bunch of misogynistic felons. In short, we begin with low lives and no one we meet rises any where above that.
By the numbers is a clue. Said another way – it means expect no twists or surprises. Expect no redemption. Which reminds me – we don’t see the inside of any churches or hear any priests taking confessions either.
Hold on, let me amend that. There is one surprise: Out of the six main characters, three are played by British actors: Toby Jones, Richie Kostner, and Ben Barnes who is the lead. While they don’t sound like Boston North Enders, they don’t sound like Brits either.
Even the title is a dead give-away. As Ricky Gervais once said – you know how it goes. Live By the Gun… etc etc. Two point seven five is the score rating.
Here’s the trailer: