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Although it’s set in the early ’90s, Rob the Mob has the loose, jaunty feel of a ’70s-era B movie. Raymond De Felitta’s wildly entertaining film based on the fascinating true-life tale of Thomas and Rosemarie Uva, a Queens couple who made the fatal mistake of robbing Mafia “social clubs,” benefits from a smart, crackling screenplay by Jonathan Fernandez; terrific performances by everyone from its topline players to its rich supporting cast; and a beautifully realized evocation of New York City’s outer boroughs.
Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda play the crazy-in-love Tommy and Rosie, whose early attempt to rob a florist results in Tommy getting caught and being sent to prison. Cut to 18 months later, when Rosie is working at a collection agency run by the perpetually jovial Dave (Griffin Dunne), who makes it a habit of employing ex-cons. Welcoming the newly sprung Tommy to the fold, he proudly informs him, “I hire people who’ve been abandoned by society.”
But Tommy is less interested in his work duties than in attending the trial of mob boss John Gotti, where one hoodlum testifies about the private clubs in which the Mafia members hang out and where guns are strictly forbidden. “Wise guys and guns … it’s a bad mix,” he points out.
Having jotted down the clubs’ addresses, Tommy, armed with an Uzi, and Rosie, manning a getaway car that was given to her by her late father, begin a series of robberies like a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde, their victims being the mobsters who can scarcely believe that anyone would be both brazen enough and dumb enough to take them on.
What Tommy and Rosie don’t know is that the clubs are under FBI surveillance, with one veteran agent (Frank Whaley) utterly bemused by the couple’s daringness. He leaks a photo of several of the mob victims vainly chasing Tommy clad only in their underwear — Tommy humiliated them by making them strip during the robbery — to a tabloid journalist (Ray Romano), who splashes the story all over the front page.
Naturally, none of this sits well with aging mob boss Big Al (Andy Garcia, who previously collaborated with De Felitta on the equally fine if little-seen City Island), a seemingly genteel type who likes to spend his time teaching his adoring young grandson the art of cooking rice balls. At first, Big Al is content to ignore the young criminals, but he’s eventually spurred to order violent retribution when Tommy begins threatening to make public the list of mob members he’s purloined from one of his hapless victims (Burt Young).
Although not lacking in suspense, the fast-paced film takes the time to explore the reason for Tommy’s hatred of the Mafia — he blames them for the death of his father — as well as the wildly passionate relationship between the two central characters, superbly played by Pitt and the vivacious Arianda.
The supporting figures, such as Garcia’s somber mob boss and Romano’s moralistic journalist who finds himself feeling increasingly sympathetic to the brazen young criminals whose lives he’s putting in danger with his stories, are equally well fleshed-out. Garcia, sporting a heavy gray beard, invests his character with an impressive gravitas, while Romano further demonstrates the dramatic skills he’s unveiled on NBC’s Parenthood. The large supporting cast, which also includes such familiar faces as Cathy Moriarty as Tommy’s estranged mother and Michael Rispoli as Big Al’s second-in-command, deliver impressive turns all around.
Featuring generous doses of raucous humor as well as a haunting atmosphere of dread as Tommy and Rosie’s exploits prove increasingly dangerous, Rob the Mob is a true-crime tale that boasts an uncommon emotional resonance.
Production: The Exchange
Cast: Michael Pitt, Nina Arianda, Andy Garcia, Ray Romano, Griffin Dunne, Michael Rispoli, Frank Whaley, Burt Young, Cathy Moriarty
Director: Raymond De Felitta
Screenwriter: Jonathan Fernandez
Producer: William Teitler
Executive producers: William Kay, Andy Garcia, Raymond De Felitta, Jonathan Fernandez, Michael Pitt
Director of photography: Christopher Norr
Production designer: Carlos A. Menendez
Costume designer: Tere Duncan
Editor: David Leonard
Composer: Stephen Endelman
Rated R, 104 minutes
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