A Movie A Day #103: Mobsters (1991, directed by Michael Karbelnikoff)


The place is New York City.  The time is the prohibition era.  The rackets are controlled by powerful but out of touch gangsters like Arnold Rothstein (F. Murray Abraham), Joe Masseria (Anthony Quinn), and Salvatore Faranzano (Michael Gambon).  However, four young gangsters — Lucky Luciano (Christian Slater), Meyer Lansky (Patrick Dempsey), Frank Costello (Costas Mandylor), and Bugsy Siegel (Richard Greico) — have an ambitious plan.  They want to form a commission that will bring together all of the Mafia families as a national force.  To do it, they will have to push aside and eliminate the old-fashioned mob bosses and take over the rackets themselves.  When Masseria and Faranzano go to war over who will be the new Boss of all Bosses, Luciano and Lansky seen their opportunity to strike.

I love a good gangster movie, which is one reason that I have never cared much for Mobsters. Mobsters was made in the wake of the success of Young Guns and, like that film, it attempted to breathe new life into an old genre by casting teen heartthrobs in the lead roles.  There was nothing inherently wrong with that because Luciano, Lansky, and Seigel were all still young men, in their 20s and early 30s, when they took over the Mafia.  (Costello was 39 but Mobsters presents him as being the same age as they other three.)  The problem was that none of the four main actors were in the least bit convincing as 1920s mobsters.  Christian Slater was the least convincing Sicilian since Alex Cord in The Brotherhood.  As for the supporting cast, actors like Chris Penn and F. Murray Abraham did the best that they could with the material but Anthony Quinn’s performance in Mobsters was the worst of his long and distinguished career.

Fans of Twin Peaks will note that Lara Flynn Boyle had a small role in Mobsters.  She played Luciano’s girlfriend.  Unfortunately, other than looking pretty and dying tragically, she was not given much to do in this disappointing gangster film.

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Back to School Part II #33: No One Would Tell (dir by Noel Nosseck)


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Do you remember when Chris Brown performed The Man In The Mirror at the 2010 BET Awards?  It was during a tribute to Michael Jackson and Brown broke down crying while singing the song.  Afterwards, he accepted an award and he said, “I let you all down before, but I won’t do it again.  I promise you.”

This, of course, was about a year after Brown had pled guilty to physically abusing Rihanna.  I remember being on twitter during Brown’s performance and seeing literally thousands of tweets from people talking about how brave Chris Brown was and how amazing his performance had been.  Chris Brown was looking at the man in the mirror and asking him to change his ways.  Chris Brown was promising not to let anyone else down by nearly killing any future girlfriends.  A lot of people on twitter claimed this was amazing.  I thought it was disgusting and I tweeted out my opinion.  I really didn’t give a fuck if Chris Brown was asking the man in the mirror to change his ways.  The man in the mirror was (and is) an abusive asshole.  The man in the mirror beats women.  The man in the mirror is not capable of changing his ways.  “FUCK THE MAN IN THE MIRROR!” I tweeted.

And, oh my God, the reaction my little twitter rant inspired.  What was especially disturbing was that the majority of people who tweeted me in Brown’s defense were other women.  Yes, they all agreed, Chris Brown had beat Rihanna but he admitted what he had done, he was asking the man in the mirror to change his ways, and hey, Rihanna probably deserved it.

My favorite excuse — and this was used by quite a few of Brown’s defenders — was this: “Only God can judge Chris Brown.”  Well, you know what?  I asked God and he says Chris Brown’s an abusive asshole.

I’m tempted to say that it amazes me that Chris Brown still has fans but actually, it doesn’t.  Sadly, when it comes to a celebrity, people are willing to make excuses for almost anything.  If you ask most people, they’ll say that they’re against domestic abuse and they think abusers should suffer the worst punishment imaginable.  But when the abuser is someone who they know (or, in the case of a celebrity like Chris Brown, someone who they feel they know), the excuses start.  The equivocations are heard.  The blame is assigned to everyone but the abuser.  We start hearing bullshit about how people make mistakes and only God can judge.

In short, people are willing to talk but when it matters, they rarely act.

That’s also the theme of a powerful and sad movie called No One Would Tell.  No One Would Tell was originally made for television in 1996 and it still shows up fairly regularly on Lifetime.  Though the names and certain details have been changed, it’s based on a true story.  In fact, the film feels like it’s based on several true stories.  The plot of No One Would Tell is one that has occurred and continues to occur on far too regular of a basis.

Stacy Collins (played by Candace Cameron, before she added the Bure to her name) is a 16 year-old high school student.  She’s quiet, shy, and insecure.  When she first starts to date a popular jock named Bobby Tennison (Fred Savage), it seems like a dream come true.  But soon, Bobby starts to show another side.  He’s controlling and possessive.  He grabs her wrist hard enough to leave bruises.  He shoves her into a wall when they have an argument.  When she wears a skirt that he thinks is too short, he grabs her in the school hallway and demands that she change immediately.  When she isn’t home to answer his calls, he assumes that she most be cheating on him.  And, when she finally breaks up with him, he kills her.

What’s infuriating is that, throughout the film, Bobby’s abuse is witnessed by all of his and Stacy’s friends.  Everyone sees him push her.  Everyone sees the bruises.  Everyone knows that Bobby is unstable and that Stacy is afraid of him.  And yet, nobody says a word.  Nobody does a thing.  Instead, they just make excuses for Bobby’s behavior.  Some of them even blame Stacy.  No one is willing to get involved and it eventually costs Stacy her life.

For a TV movie from the mid-90s, No One Would Tell holds up surprisingly well.  Admittedly, Fred Savage overacts in the role of Bobby (and maybe it would have been better if the role had been played by Eric Balfour, who appears as Bobby’s best friend) but Candace Cameron does a perfect job as the tragic Stacy, capturing both her insecurity and her vulnerability.  Some of the film’s best moments are the ones shares by Cameron and Michelle Phillips.  In those scenes, we see how Stacy learned how to make excuses for Bobby’s behavior from watching the way that her mother made excuses for the men who similarly abused her.  No One Would Tell is a powerful film, one that offers an unflinching look at abuse and one that dares to demand that its audience take a stand.

No One Would Tell is a film that should be watched by anyone who thinks that the man in the mirror can change his ways.