The fourth of NBC’s In The Line of Duty movies, Mob Justice opens with the murder of an undercover DEA agent by a low-level gangster who has just been released from prison. While the gangster goes into hiding, the DEA mobilizes and starts to make life so difficult for all of the other mobsters in New York that soon, the Mafia is as determined to get justice as law enforcement.
This was the first In The Line Of Duty film not be directed by Dick Lowry. Lowry’s fast-paced style is missed as Mob Justice takes forever to get going and regularly gets bogged down with scenes lifted from other mafia movies. The old mobsters talk about the importance of family, play cards in the backroom, and eat big dinners. Opera blares on the soundtrack when the DEA starts to harass them. For a movie that is supposed to honor the work and the sacrifice of federal law enforcement, the DEA actually comes across as being thoroughly incompetent in Mob Justice. A dumb mistake leads to the first murder. A series of other misjudgments lead to the Mafia dispensing the own type of violent justice before the DEA can arrest their man.
The most interesting thing about Mob Justice is the cast.
The trigger-happy gangster is played by Tony Danza, who I guess was trying to prove himself as a dramatic actor after spending years on Taxi and Who’s The Boss but who still comes across like Tony Micelli having a bad day. His best friend is played Nicholas Turturro, who later played a straight arrow detective on NYPD Blue. Frank Vincent and Leonardo Cimino plays the mob bosses who knows that murdering a federal agent is bad for business.
The head of the investigation is played by Ted Levine, who has had a long career but will always be remembered as the killer from The Silence of the Lambs. Working under him is Dan Lauria, who a generation will instantly recognize as being the long-suffering and frequently angry father from The Wonder Years. You know that this is a big case is Buffalo Bill and Jack Arnold are working together. (Dan Lauria actually appeared in several In The Line of Duty films, always playing different characters.)
And finally, the murdered DEA agent is played by none other than Samuel L. Jackson. It’s never a good thing when the best actor in a movie is killed off after the first fifteen minutes.
The cast is great but Mob Justice is forgettable. The main problem is that, after Jackson is taken out of the picture, the rest of the movie is just Danza hiding in different apartments while Levine and Lauria annoy Frank Vincent. Danza’s murderer is never smart nor interesting enough to be a compelling antagonist and there’s never any doubt that, one way or another, he will pay for his stupidity. There is one memorable scene where Danza freaks out while wearing a blonde wig but otherwise, Mob Justice doesn’t leave much of an impression.