James Canellos ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Whenever a moment in history is recreated for film, the director attempts to capture an entire movement or even generation in less then two hours. Director Raymond De Felitta however has more specific intensions by focusing on a limited window of time in 1991 New York City.
During this crime-ridden period in the concrete jungle, a bumbling duo named Tommy (Michael Pitt) and Rosie (Nina Arianda) try to steer clear from a life of theft and move toward a potent relationship. As the title of the film reveals, this progress does not last too long as the couple become the Bonnie and Clyde of Queens. But, instead of robbing banks the spontaneous crooks are after the mobsters who infect their neighborhoods.
The tales of True Romance and Dog Day Afternoon might reappear through your thoughts as you see this bizarre true story play out. The protagonists to all films share a desperation and drive to provide for your loved ones, no matter how life threatening the situation may be. De Felitta enforces several positive similarities with these films, while also differentiating Rob The Mob in unexpected ways. The ‘victimized’ mobsters of the film as rarely seen as ruthless stereotypes that are so often portrayed. Instead screenplay writer Jonathan Fernandez allows the viewer to see these men as vulnerable, ordinary human beings as opposed to menacing bosses that are usually presented.
Pitt and Arianda do justice to characters whose relationship was surviving on the rush of breaking the law. Pitt is basking in the opportunity to play a less calculating character then his Boardwalk Empire persona. The in over his head confidence spills out him like the bullets of his semi-automatic gun as he fuses gloom with silliness to his version of Clyde. Arianda shines almost as her bright as her million dollar smile, spewing the F-word aloud half the time for all of Queens to hear. Arianda gives a career making performance in Rosie, although it felt like she got the short end of the stick compared to Tommy. Arianda’s character could have been given a little more depth that would have put her on the same level as her lover.
In fact, overexposing Tommy too quickly presented the audience with little to dissect as the story went further. Although the archival footage is excellent and looks fantastic, it becomes a bit of an overkill, constantly retreating to it any time Tommy is alone reminding the viewer of information that is already very clear. The same problem presented itself for Andy Garcia’s aging crime boss, Big Al. Garcia gives another very good performance, after previously working with De Felitta in the criminally under-appreciated City Island. However, his scenes feel a little overwrought, delivering his life story to a fellow mafia member. Garcia’s delivery is good, but like Tommy, it feels like we’re given too much of the character too quickly and easily. These scenes even come with their own background score that doesn’t fit with the overall tone of the picture.
Tonally, this film knows exactly what it is and embraces that energy as Tommy and Rosie keep digging a deeper grave for themselves. Rob The Mob offers a great “If you can’t beat them, join them”, idea as the couple commit their form of judgment to those who won’t receive it otherwise. This time capsule of history can still be applied today as convictions seem to be near impossible to men who have such amoral affiliations in various professions. The solution to the couple’s frustrations may seem very simple, and have setbacks but their execution remains engaging and often very funny in this little known crime spree.
Overall Grade: B+