Mob Town Review : Neighborhood Watch

As was the case when “Goodfellas” hit the screen in 1990, every preceding gangster film following it – no matter how solid – had its work cut out for it.

With an all-star mob movie as good as Martin Scorsese’s epic meatballs n’ murder jaunt, audiences understandably expected very little from the likes of “Bugsy”, “Billy Bathgate” and “Rage in Harlem”. As a result, most made pocket change and only over the years achieved the attention each deserved.

It’ll be the same with Scorsese’s latest crime drama, critics darling and shoe-in awards contender “The Irishman”, which released last month after teasing audiences for a good year of its impending arrival and domination. A seemingly perfect profusion of performance, plot and power-packed thrills, it’ll be looked upon as the sub genre’s peak.

You have to feel a little bit sorry for any mob movie that trails a few blocks behind over the coming months.

Danny A.Abeckaser’s “Mob Town” isn’t “The Irishman” – and it doesn’t want to be. A far less grim tale than Scorsese’s and a more playful history lesson than the one we’ve just had on Frank Sheehan’s, this intimate, modestly-budgeted film showcases just as many wonderful performances as the competition, and encompasses a history lesson just as intriguing, but again, it’s going to take word of mouth to get those Netflix subscribers to divert their attention to iTunes for the night.

If they do, they’ll be rewarded with a killer performance by the criminally underrated David Arquette as a straight-laced, do-gooder cop who discovers an assortment of different crime bosses are set to meet up in his quiet upstate NY town.

Arquette, in what’s one of his more likeable and compelling performances in years, is just a treat here, carrying the movie from scene to scene with a character as interesting – though dissimilar to most – as any in a “Goodfellas” or “Miller’s Crossing”. It’s a turn not unlike Sylvester Stallone’s in “Copland” – albeit a little less heavy-handed and intentionally so.

Abeckaser – who also co-stars; his immersive and even comical turn as Joe Barbara is one of the movie’s highlights – effectively portions his limited budget on a modest production design but largely puts the emphasis behind the film’s well-paced structure and intriguing story. Sure, the result isn’t as slick and polished as Scorsese’s film, but it sure makes for an admirable and recommended companion piece.

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