Growing up in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, Michael, Carmine and Bobby had a perfectly average coming of age. They skip out on Catholic Mass as kids, and go trolling for girls at the local club as teenagers. One time, they stumble upon a car in the woods that contains a body with a well placed bullet hole in the skull.
OK, perhaps it’s not run of the mill everywhere, but for a trio of Italian kids in 1980s Brooklyn, it’s not all that atypical.
“When I was a kid, I found two bodies myself,” said Frank Lapetina, a Brooklyn born businessman who grew up in East New York and who has a small part in the film. He thinks it might appeal to guys like him, who came of age themselves in the era the film portrays, when mobsters made the rules.
It’s the third effort from director Michael Corrente, who made “Federal Hill” and “Outside Providence.” It was written by Terence Winter, whose own Brooklyn upbringing and experience as a writer from “The Sopranos” lend veracity to both setting and topic. The film also stars Alec Baldwin as the ruthless Gambino family man Caesar Manganaro.
Still, the film falls a bit short in some areas. The plot offers little that is novel and the characters, dragged down by weighty cliches, are prone to trite and predictable dialogue. A voice-over from the lead character is a little overly informative.
The film draws a picture of these childhood friends: the hero and narrator, Michael, played by Freddie Prinze Jr. Carmine, played by Scott Caan and Bobby, played by Jerry Ferrara. Their lives as boys proceed along parallel lines, but then diverge dramatically as they reach adulthood when the role of the John Gotti family growing around them influences their choices.
In fairy tale fashion, each of the three chooses a different path according to his abilities — the dolt pursues civil service, the brain higher education, and the slick, street smart one is inevitably drawn into the glamorous mob life.
The latter choice drives the plot and leads to a scene sure to please fans of Mafia tales whose blood lust was left unsatiated by “The Sopranos” recent ultimate cliffhanger. Not to be a total spoiler, but suffice to say it involves an interloping sanitation worker, an unhappy mob boss and a meat slicer.
The movie is part coming of age, part unlikely romance and part gritty New York docu-drama. And it has just a touch of the parable. In addition to its “Good Will Hunting” style courtship subplot, the dramatic twist ending leaves one with little lingering doubt that our hero’s decision to claw his way from the neighborhood to the Ivory Tower was for the best.
Though that wasn’t the path the real-life Lapetina took. He now lives in Howard Beach, and runs a construction supply business on Linden Boulevard, not far over the borough line in Brooklyn.
He has known Corrente for years and agreed to read the script when it was first written. When it finally came time to make the movie, he was called to the Manhattan studio and asked to read for the part of mobster Jimmy Bags.
“What do you mean read the part? Read it to whom?” he recalled thinking, somewhat puzzled.
But he agreed, and ended up doing a scene with Baldwin. The scene is in a bowling alley, after Michael gets into a scuffle with the neighborhood loose cannon he seeks the help of Baldwin, who arranges a “sit down” with the punk and his mobster boss. Lapetina plays the other boss, and says it came pretty naturally. “I never acted in my life. I wasn’t acting then.”