Last I Heard: Film Review

Last I Heard Poster Art - P 2013

Last I Heard Poster Art - P 2013

Sincere but uninspired look at an ex-con who used to be somebody

Paul Sorvino plays a one-time Mafia bigwig made obsolete by 20 years in prison.

SEATTLE — A one-time Mafia capo leaves prison to find a world that has moved on in David Rodriguez' Last I Heard, a Queens-set vehicle for Paul Sorvino that's long on nostalgia but short on imagination. Sorvino and a highly sympathetic Michael Rapaport will draw attention to this heartfelt drama at festivals, but the picture lacks the grit and compelling central performance that helped the similarly themed The Last Rites of Joe May (starring Dennis Farina as a much lower-tier criminal) escape the fest circuit, however briefly, in 2011.

Sorvino's Joe Scoleri, aka Mister Joe, is released from prison after 20 years largely so he can die in peace of a heart ailment, but the government's compassion has limits: As his lawyer (Chazz Palminteri) sternly informs him, he can't so much as share an espresso with other felons -- which is to say, his entire social circle. Condemned to inhabit his old kingdom without a trace of his former power, he must rely on the shreds of respect he gets from civilians who were around during his reign.

Chief among those is Rapaport's Bobby, a good kid who grew up next door and took over his dad's (legit) neighborhood business. Bobby volunteers to chauffeur Joe to the doctor and help with chores -- favors that grow more important when Joe's loving daughter Rita (Renee Props) becomes estranged from him over secrets she has kept.

Bobby's growing friendship with Joe attracts some bullying from the FBI agents assigned to monitor the mobster, a conflict that has dramatic potential given the young man's need to defend the reputation of a man who always kept his nastier activities away from the neighborhood. Instead, Rodriguez' script concocts a third-act tantrum, not believable for a second, in which Joe accuses Bobby of betraying him and utters the fateful words "You're dead to me!"

Much of the film's dialogue feels similarly second- and third-hand -- flavorless banter and familiar observations about the passing of time. Sorvino can sometimes generate sympathy for the deposed capo, but fails to find more in the underdeveloped part. His final scenes of redemption and crisis ring only slightly more true than the dustup with Bobby that precedes them.

Production Companies: Cine Relevante, Fuzzy Productions

Cast: Paul Sorvino, Michael Rapaport, Renee Props, Lev Gorn, Andrea Nittoli, Olivia Panepinto, Paul Ben-Victor, William DePaolo, Johnny Williams, Chazz Palminteri

Director-Screenwriter: David Rodriguez

Producers: Kevin Kelly, David Rodriguez, Michelle Manning

Executive producer: Chris Kelly

Director of photography: John Barr

Production designer: Tania Bijlani

Music: Geoff Zanelli

Costume designer: Rebecca Luke

Editor: Frank Reynolds

Sales: Kevin Iwashina from Prefferred Content

No rating, 99 minutes