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October 8, 2013

1

Married to the Mob

by Franz Patrick


Married to the Mob (1988)
★★ / ★★★★

Frank (Alec Baldwin) works for a mobster called Tony “The Tiger” Russo (Dean Stockwell), a man that the FBI has been watching for some time. When Tony discovers that Frank is getting his sloppy seconds, it is the perfect excuse to shoot Frank dead. During his former henchman’s burial, Tony makes a move on Angela (Michelle Pfeiffer), Frank’s wife. This forces the now single woman into an uncomfortable position because she no longer wants to have anything to do with the mob. To assert her independence, she moves to the Lower East Side with her son. This does not stop Tony from wanting to win her over.

“Married to the Mob,” written by Barry Strugatz and Mark R. Burns, is not devoid of humor, romance, or excitement, but it fails to excel at all of them. The mob boss is too outwardly silly and soft to be taken seriously. His henchmen are no better; it seems like not one of them has ever handled a gun before. Is it supposed to be farcical? I assumed it is.

It is fine that the picture has a light-hearted tone, it is supposed to be comedy after all, but its characters do not need to be so obvious all the time that we eventually grow numb to the screenplay’s efforts. There is one action scene involving a burger place that is designed to show how dangerous Tony can be when absolutely necessary, but the set-up feels like it has come from a completely different movie.

Mob bosses are scary not because of their ability to kill. That is probably a major factor for many but capacity for violence does not differentiate a gangster leader from his henchmen. I argue that the inherent fear we have about mob leaders stems from the way they are able to get whatever they want through conversation, silky-smooth charm, or a certain look they give when they mean business. Tony lacks depth. So when Angela feels threatened or disgusted by simply being in his presence, there is no change in the level of suspense. Even when he pulls out a gun, I had a difficult time believing it.

Angela, only a day after she has moved into her new apartment, meets Mike (Matthew Modine), who, unbeknownst to her, is one of the FBI agents, the other being Agent Benitez (Oliver Platt), assigned to spy on her and gather evidence to bring down Tony for good. I enjoyed the scene when the two go on a date (she is the one who asks him out) and share a few drinks. However, when they interact without drinks in hand, I could care less about how their relationship ends up. Naturally, she must find out about his true occupation and has to deal with the fact that she has been used.

The character I was most interested in is Connie (Mercedes Ruehl), Tony’s high-strung wife. Every time she is on screen, there is something off-kilter about her. She is so obsessed about being the wife of Tony, she will do absolutely anything to keep that title. If it means barging in on Angela’s apartment with nothing but a hunch on her side, then so be it. Even if she knows she is in the wrong, she walks away proudly. Ruehl is amusing to watch not because she is trying to be funny but because her character’s suspicion and paranoia become so severe, they take over her completely. I wished the picture was about Connie.

Directed by Jonathan Demme, “Married to the Mob” lacks subtle spice. Sitting through it is like eating a bowl of noodles with meat and vegetables but without key seasonings to make it splendiferous.

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1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Oct 8 2013

    I have a lot of sentiment attached to this film because Angela de Marco in “Married to the Mob” was my introduction to the woman who would quickly become my favourite actress.

    What I love about Michelle’s role as Angela, is that Angela is not merely a pretty accessory for a kingpin. She’s gutsy, and she demands control over her life. She’s willing to get down and dirty with the best of them! She has to be tough, but not so tough that she loses all sense of humanity. Her naivety is endearing as are the lengths Angela will go to to teach her son right from wrong, the value of working hard, and living an honest life. After her husband’s death, Angela has the option of continuing to live a cushy lifestyle, a life that she’s become accustomed to, but instead, she’s willing to give it all up so that she and her son can have a life that they she can be proud of. In order to make that a reality, she picks up and leaves, and sets out to do it the hard way.

    “Married to the Mob” shows that not only does Michelle do her homework, but also how dedicated she is to mastering her craft. A lot of Italian-Americans say that her accent was unbelievably spot on! Had I not known it was Michelle and what she actually sounds like, I would have totally bought that she was from Long Island. I still hear her “I wanna a dah-voorce!” in my head!

    “Married to the Mob” proved that Michelle was born with the ‘funny gene,’ something she doesn’t believe she has.

    Reply

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