'The Brooklyn Banker': Film Review

Courtesy of Classified Pictures
'Sopranos' lite.

'Sopranos' veteran Federico Castelluccio directs this '70s-set gangster drama.

Federico Castelluccio delves into a comfortable milieu with The Brooklyn Banker, his film about a straight-arrow family man who finds himself inextricably drawn into mob life. The debuting filmmaker, best known for his acting turn as the heartthrob hitman Furio in The Sopranos, infuses this 1973-set gangster-themed effort with an undeniably authentic atmosphere. But the pic ultimately suffers from an overfamiliarity further emphasized by the presence of Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas) and several Sopranos veterans in the cast.

Troy Garity plays the titular role of Santo Basutcci, the vice president of a Williamsburg, Brooklyn bank who has resisted the lure of criminal activities despite being married to Ann (Elizabeth Masucci), the daughter of low-level gangster Benny (Sorvino).

Santo has an unusual trait — namely, the ability to memorize large groups of numbers like an Italian Rainman — that attracts the interest of local crime kingpin Manny (David Proval), whose nickname is "The Hand" for his propensity for removing those of his enemies. So when Manny calls Santo into his office to propose that he use his talents to participate in a bogus check-cashing scheme, Santo finds it an offer he unfortunately can't refuse.

Simultaneously encouraged by the affable Benny to cooperate and warned by his Uncle Matteo (Arthur J. Nascarella), the streetwise pastor of his church, to be careful, Santo further finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place when he attracts the interest of a seemingly affable Secret Service agent (John Bedford Lloyd) who's trying to put Manny away.

The film — penned by Michael Ricigliano Jr., a lawyer making his screenwriting debut — never really achieves the necessary dramatic tension despite a surprising climactic plot twist. The dialogue rarely rises above the level of cliché, such as when Santos' wife, sensing that something is wrong, expresses concern.

"Are you OK?" she asks her husband. "Was it the pasta fagioli?"

Nor are the clichés restricted to the dialogue. Fulfilling the actor's apparently standard contractual demand, the film includes a scene in which Sorvino warbles an opera aria. And the humanity of Proval's mobster character is illustrated by his following astrological predictions and raising pigeons on his roof (although he is seen wringing one of the bird's necks when it's outlived its usefulness).

Informing us in its credits that it was "filmed entirely on location in Brooklyn," the movie certainly boasts evocative visual atmosphere, conveying the ethnically diverse neighborhood as it felt before becoming a hipster enclave. Featuring Sinatra songs on the soundtrack (although not actually sung by Sinatra) and showcasing footage of Sorvino parading through the real-life Giglio Feast, The Brooklyn Banker seems designed to make Italians swoon.

Distributor: TriCoast Entertainment
Production companies: Classified Pictures, Pinstripe Entertainment, Jackson Leonard Productions
Cast: Troy Garity, Paul Sorvino, David Proval, Arthur Nascarella, Elizabeth Masucci, John Bedford Lloyd
Director: Federico Castelluccio
Screenwriter: Michael Ricigliano Jr.
Producers: Craig Cohen, TJ Sansone
Executive producers: Michael Ricigliano Jr., Jeff Schneider
Director of photography: Ken Kelsch
Production designer: Angela Cullen
Editor: Ray Hubley
Costume designer: Moira Schaughnessy

Composer: Tim Starnes
Casting: Eve Battaglia

Rated R, 95 minutes