BROOKLYN RULES
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
The films directed by Michael Corrente tend to
"a fish out of water." In many cases, like
FEDERAL HILL, AMERICAN BUFFALO, and
OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE, the central character
has ties with petty crooks or low-level mobsters.
So it perhaps comes as no surprise that
Corrente responded to Terrence Winter's
screenplay for
BROOKLYN RULES. Winter, who
is now perhaps best known for his Emmy
Award-winning work on TV's
The Sopranos, has
created a story that is at once somewhat
familiar yet also unique.

The film opens with a bravura set piece of two
guys who are about to execute a bound man.
Through voice-over narration by one of the
heroes -- Mike (Freddie Prinze Jr.), an affable
con artist with aspirations to escape his stifling
neighborhood -- we are then introduced to the
trio at the heart of the tale. There's a flashback
to 1974 when the three are students in a
parochial elementary school in Brooklyn. There's
Bobby Canzoneri, the overly religious and frugal
one who pretends to put money into the
collection plate at Mass. Next is Carmine
Mancuso, the vain, cocky one who actually does
make a contribution. Finally there's Michael
Turner, who we see swipe some bills then pass
the collection back to the clueless nun. They cut
out of Mass, head for the shore and discover a
dead man sitting in a convertible. Each steals
something from the man's car: Michael take a
gun from the glove compartment; Carmine
swipes a lighter and a pack of cigarettes; Bobby
discovers a beagle puppy and takes him home.

Flash forward to 1985 and the three friends
remain close despite beginning to develop
different aspirations. Michael has somehow
made it into Columbia where he dressed the
part in preppy clothes and coasts by on his wits.
He tries to impress Connecticut rich girl Ellen
(Mena Suvari) who seems to enjoy
psychoanalyzing him and his friends. Their
on-again, off-again relationship holds echoes of
that of WASP Kay Adams and Michael Corleone
in
THE GODFATHER.

Bobby (Jerry Ferrara) is still tight with a buck,
hopes to marry his girlfriend (Monica Keena) and
land a civil service job with the post office.
Carmine (Scott Caan), whom Michael describes
by saying "if you told the guy to go fuck himself,
he'd actually consider it," reads
GQ and keeps
up on all the fashion trends, and is slowly
becoming seduced by the local gangsters,
represented by Caesar Manganaro (Alec Baldwin
in a riff on his role in
THE COOLER) and his
henchman Philly (Chris Caldovino). To add to the
mix, there's the requisite hothead Gino
(Christian Maelen).

Winter has set the film deliberately in 1985
when reputed underworld boss John Gotti was
consolidating his power. He has drawn terrific
characters and the back and forth banter and
teasing in which the three friends engage carries
a ring of truth. (It also makes for some of the
film's best lines, many of which are quite funny.)

As he has previously demonstrated, Corrente
handles this type of material well and he has
elicited strong performances from most of the
cast.

Years ago, I caught some flack for praising
Freddie Prinze Jr. in one of those inane teen
comedies that were in vogue. To me, there were
suggestions that he could potentially turn into
an interesting leading man. Well, under
Corrente's hand, he emerges as the heart of this
movie and he carries the burden of it well. He's
still a little green in spots, but there's also hints
that with the right material and director, he
could continue to grow and develop into a
first-rate performer.

Since I don't have cable television, I was not
familiar with Jerry Ferrara's work on
Entourage,
so his portrayal of the dimwitted but loyal
Bobby felt fresh and pitch perfect to me. Scott
Caan evokes memories of his own father's turn
as Sonny in
THE GODFATHER, but he also puts
his own spin on the role. He has done some
intriguing work in the past and here he does a
fine job.

The major female roles are perhaps the least
developed with Suvari doing what she can to
infuse her character with spunk and Keena
handling her smallish role with ease.

Yes, I will agree that there are echoes of other
films in
BROOKLYN RULES -- many of
Scorsese's films are invoked as are those of
Coppola and several lesser ones. The gangster
genre has pretty much been covered -- even
The
Sopranos
has raised the bar. Still, by mixing in
a coming of age story about three guys -- all of
whom are hoping to escape from something by
reinventing themselves -- the filmmakers have
tried to put a spin on the formulaic genre. In my
humble estimation, they have succeeded. This is
an enjoyable, well-written, finely acted and
strongly directed movie.


Rating:                B+
MPAA Rating:        R for violence,
                         pervasive language &
                         some sexual content
Running time:      99 mins.



    Viewed at Magno Review Two
and Jerry Ferrara as Bobby in
BROOKLYN RULES
© 2007 City Lights Pictures