Review: 'Rob the Mob' is a goofy film about real-life calamity

"City Island" director Raymond De Felitta's "Rob the Mob" tells of the couple in 1991 who went on a rampage, sticking up mafia joints.

Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda play a real-life couple who stuck up the mafia in "Rob the Mob." Credit: Millennium Entertainment Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda play a real-life couple who stuck up the mafia in "Rob the Mob."
Credit: Millennium Entertainment

 

'Rob the Mob'
Director: Raymond De Felitta
Stars: Michael Pitt, Nina Arianda
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

 

Considering it’s a docudrama about a couple who stuck up mafia hang-outs, “Rob the Mob” is disarmingly goofy. Based on one of those stranger-than-fiction tales that eventually get made into movies like this, it tells of a struggling Queens couple — Tommy (Michael Pitt) and Rosie (Nina Arianda) — who hatch a so-crazy-it-probably-won’t-work scheme. It’s 1991 and the John Gotti trial is in full swing. After hearing his minions and colleagues never bring guns to the hangouts and bars they frequent, Tommy decides to use an Uzi to steal their cash, rip their chains from their necks and maybe mess up their hair.

 

Director Raymond De Felitta has a thing for warm-hearted but abrasive New York Stories; the farce “City Island” hit up an area of the city so far untouched by the Middle Class. He does the same for Queens. He pitches the film as a broad comedy, but not the kind you’d think. The characters are cartoonish, but not full-on stereotypes; despite the slicked back hair and gold, this has to be one of the most calm portrayals of New York organized crime on film.

 

Instead, the characters are clumsy, foolish and, if you ignore the peppy tone, human. Tommy fumbles with his robberies, from the way he tries to handle the gun while also managing the bag of loot to the way his targets spend most of the robberies stuck in disbelief. De Felitta doesn’t even hate the mobsters. He periodically cuts to aging mob boss Big Al (Andy Garcia), a salt-and-pepper bearded epicure who likes to relax on his Howard Beach property, rhapsodizing about Mortadella and awaiting the jail time that has so far eluded him.

Big Al’s scenes aren’t important dramatically; he’s there for texture, and to ease us from a sillier tone into the melancholic, possibly tragic one on which it will end. But the whole of “Rob the Mob” fits De Fellita’s sensibility, which is big and warm and welcoming. He hates no one. He’s perhaps closest to the boss (Griffin Dunne) that employs first Rosie and the ex-con Tommy, who says he accepts anyone chucked by society, even a sex offender with a face full of tats. (“Actually, he’s a nice guy.”) If it occasionally goes too far with its comedy, that’s a good thing — the kind of flaw that proves the film is human.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 
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