Personally, I would blame The Godfather. Since it first released in 1972, gangster movies about the mafia and underworld dons have fascinated American film audiences with their glamorized visions of allegiance, big money, and absolute power. The fact that it is all built on a foundation of murder, revenge, and bloodlust is often swept under the rug in a fit of “well, it’s just a movie” dismissiveness. But man, do we love to see hordes of men in fancy suits get gunned down. Death in an Armani suit: what a way to go.
The latest “gangsters are cool” movie doesn’t star stalwarts like Pacino, De Niro, or the late great Marlon Brando. It stars Brad Pitt, who is generally fodder for historic dramas or action movies. What’s he doing in a movie like this? Turns out, not much…except maybe getting out of diaper duty.
The plot is pretty threadbare, even as revenge fantasies go. Pitt plays an “enforcer” who is called in to set things right when a group of small-time bad guys steal from a card game run by the mob. Pitt, doing his best attempt at being as badass as a Midwestern pretty boy pushing 50 can possibly do, spends most of the movie driving other bad guys around so that they can shoot at bad guys who already, magically happen to be at the wrong place at the right time. The baddies include well-known commodities in the gangster genre like James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, and Vincent Curatola. Just listing their names is enough to make me want a couple of cannoli.
What it isn’t is enough to sustain the movie. It’s pretentious without ever giving a nod to why it thinks it’s rooted in such tremendous pedigree. Why, we have Tony Soprano, you can hear the producers proudly cooing from their nests. Yes, you do. And good for you!
As the third Godfather proved, heavyset second generation Italians with an endless supply of bullets does not a great movie make.