An Offer You Can’t Refuse #9: Rob the Mob (dir by Raymond De Felitta)

The 2014 film, Rob the Mob, tells the true story of a young couple in love who became minor celebrities when they robbed the mob.  Of course, they also ended up with a huge target on their back, which tends to happen when you repeatedly humiliate a bunch of angry men who have weapons at their disposal.

The year is 1992 and Tommy Uva (Michael Pitt) and his wife, Rosemarie (Nina Arianda) are professional criminals who, after getting busted for trying to rob a florist on Valentine’s Day, end up working at a debt collection agency.  Their boss (played by Griffin Dunne) spent time in prison for insider trading and he believes in giving convicts a second chance.  The problem is that Tommy doesn’t really want a second chance.  He’s actually pretty happy being a criminal.

Tommy has some issues with the Mafia, largely due to the fact that his father borrowed money from the mob to open up a shop and spent the rest of his short life being beaten and humiliated by loan sharks.  Tommy believes that the pressure is what led his father to an early grave.  Tommy’s mother (Cathy Moriarty), on the other hand, claims that it was the stress caused by Tommy being a criminal.  Regardless, seeing his father repeatedly mistreated has definitely left Tommy with some anger issues.

Even though Tommy claims that he hates the Mafia, he still seems to be rather obsessed with them.  At times, it’s hard to tell if Tommy is angry with the Mafia or if he’s just jealous about the fact that he’ll never be as rich or as powerful as the local neighborhood mobster.  Tommy starts to skip work so that he can observe the trial of John Gotti.  It’s while doing this that Tommy hears that guns are not allowed in Mafia social clubs.

Soon, Tommy is robbing those same clubs, taking all of the money that he can and humiliating the mobsters at the same time.  (He forces one group of paunchy gangsters to march outside in their underwear.)  With Rosemarie serving as his getaway driver, Tommy soon becomes something of a legend.  The mobsters even nickname the pair “Bonnie and Clyde.”  Because the Mafia doesn’t want to attract any unnecessary attention during the Gotti trial, Tommy and Rosemarie are able to get away with their activities for a while.  But then they make the mistake of stealing a list that could bring down the entire New York Mafia….

Rob the Mob is a bit of an uneven film.  The film starts with Tommy and Rosemarie getting high and then attempting to rob a florist and, in that scene, they both seemed like such idiots that I really wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend 104 minutes of my life watching a film about them.  Even after Tommy got out of a prison and got a legitimate job, he still seemed like such an unsympathetic loser that I found myself wondering why I should care.

However, once Tommy and Rosemarie start actually robbing the mob, the film picks up.  We meet Big Al, the temporary head of the New York mafia, and he’s played by Andy Garcia, who gives an intelligent and understated performance.  Big Al may be a mobster but he’s not an unsympathetic character.  The film presents him as being someone who has been unexpectedly thrust into a position of power and who is doing his best to keep everything from falling apart.  Then, as the robberies continue, Ray Romano shows up as Jerry Cardozo, a reporter who makes “Bonnie and Clyde” famous but who realizes too late that he’s also put their lives in even greater danger than they were before.  Over the past few years, Romano has gone from being a former sitcom star to being a surprisingly effective character actor and his performance here gives Rob the Mob its conscience.

Perhaps even more importantly, during the second half of the film, the chemistry of Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda finally won me over and I actually started to care about what would happen to Tommy and Rosemarie.  Tommy and Rosemarie find a reason for living in their criminal activities.  They go from being losers to being minor New York celebrities, even if they can’t reveal their actual identities.  They may be idiots but their love is real and there’s something very touching about how much they actually do care about each other.  It’s hard not to be happy for them, even if it’s obvious from the start that their story is not going to have a happy ending.

Rob the Mob is uneven but, in the end, it’s more than worth watching.  This is an offer you should not refuse.

Previous Offers You Can’t (or Can) Refuse:

  1. The Public Enemy
  2. Scarface
  3. The Purple Gang
  4. The Gang That Could’t Shoot Straight
  5. The Happening
  6. King of the Roaring Twenties: The Story of Arnold Rothstein 
  7. The Roaring Twenties
  8. Force of Evil

The Tie That Binds (1995, directed by Wesley Strick)

John (Keith Carradine) and his wife, Leanne (Daryl Hannah) are two white trash murderers who are on the run with the police.  When the cops catch them in the act of burglarizing a house (and murdering the people who live there), John and Leanne manages to narrowly escape but they’re forced to leave behind their 6 year-old daughter, Janie (Julia Devlin).

Traumatized by her former life, Janie is adopted by an architect named Russell (Vincent Spano) and his wife, Dana (Moira Kelly).  Dana, who lost her previous baby, and Russell are convinced that they can give Janie a loving home and help her overcome her past traumas.  And it seems like they might be correct, even though Janie is still terrified of a mysterious monster that she calls “the tooth fairy.”

However, John and Leanne are determined to get their daughter back and they’ve just found out where Russell and Dana live.

The Tie That Binds is a stupid movie from 1995 that, like a lot of stupid movies from the 90s, was put into heavy rotation on HBO and Cinemax after a brief box office run.  The main problem with the film is that everyone consistently makes the dumbest decisions possible but then we’e expected to sympathize with them when everything goes wrong.  John and Leanne may be extremely evil but they’re also extremely stupid so it’s hard to really buy into the idea that they could somehow successfully evade being caught by the police long before the inevitable scene where they confront Russell and Dana in the unfinished house that Russell’s spent the entire movie working on.

The Tie That Binds does feature good performances, all from actors who deserved better.  Keith Carradine and Daryl Hannah are frightening and Moira Kelly and Vincent Spano are convincing as a normal couple who just want to do the right thing.  Both Kelly and Spano should have been bigger stars back in the day but instead, it seems like they usually just ended up in stuff like The Tie That Binds.

Music Video Of The Day: Thanks For The Love by Earth & Fire (1975, directed by ????)

Up until YouTube recommended this video to me a few hours ago, I had never heard of Earth & Fire.  In fact, when this video first popped up under my recommendations, I assumed that it was for a song that Earth, Wind, and Fire had performed with a special guest singer.

Once I played the video, I discovered that wasn’t the case.  Instead, Earth & Fire was a Dutch group that was active from 1968 to 1983.  They were big in the Netherlands but it appears that they never really broke through in the rest of the world.  This was also apparently one of those bands that went through a large number of different line-ups over the course of its existence.  Wikipedia lists a total of 16 musicians who were, at one time or another, a member of Earth & Fire.  The band’s lead singer was Jerney Kaagman, who went on to become the president of the Dutch musicians’ union and who was one of the judges on Idols, the Dutch version of the British show Pop Idol.  (Pop Idol also served as the inspiration for American Idol.)

Earth & Fire had a series of hits as a prog rock outfit in the early to mid-70s.  In the later part of the 70s, they tried to rebrand themselves as a disco act.  Apparently, it didn’t work because the band broke up shortly afterwards.

When it was released as a single in 1975, Thanks For The Love reached number 8 on the Dutch Top 40.  This music video, like many of the videos that were released in the days before MTV, is a simple performance clip.