“Mafia, Inc.” – Bad fellas with accents [MOVIE REVIEW]

Sergio Castellitto as Frank Paternò in “Mafia, Inc.” Photo courtesy of Les Films Séville.

“Mafia, Inc.” is a wild, rambling, riveting ride through the mean streets of Montreal. French Canadian director, Daniel Grou goes by the single moniker of Podz. Pulling stories from the nonfiction book entitled Mafia Inc. by André Cédilot and André Noël about the true-life Rizzuto clan, screenwriter Sylvain Guy has created a film full of Scorsese imagery and family themes from “The Godfather” and “The Sopranos.” Although not quite at the level of its antecedents, “Mafia, Inc.” is a fitting homage and moves at a quick, violent pace.

Complex, at times too complicated and fussy in its plots and character relationships, this is, like all the gangster films that came before it, a story of family, love, betrayal, and the search for acceptance and approval; not to mention corruption, crime and murder. Amusingly, at one point, a refrain of the theme from “The Godfather” can be heard.

The Gamache family has had ties to the Paternò family for years. The Gamache patriarch, Henri, an honest tailor, has outfitted Frank Paternò since he was a young up and comer in his father’s criminal enterprise. Sophia, the beautiful daughter of Henri, is engaged to Patrizio, Frank’s youngest son. Henri is distressed at multiple levels, not the least of which that he has lost his son, Vincent, to the Paternò gang. Vincent, always in trouble as a youth, found acceptance in the Paternò family and his success in securing cocaine and heroin shipments and his willingness to support that family in increasingly violent ways has led Frank to place him as the leader of the gangster cartel he has set up. Giaco, Frank’s son, had been instrumental in bringing together the various criminal factions of the Montreal underworld and is beyond angry at this snub.

But Frank has ulterior motives in withdrawing his own family from day to day operations because he has an investment scheme that will ostensibly make them legit and untouchable, while providing billions in laundered funds. Italy is in the process of putting out bids for a toll bridge that will join Sicily to the mainland. Sicilian operators will have the right to invest in this building project, giving them a sizable ownership percentage. Frank has it set up so that he will be one of those Sicilian investors. All he needs is to gather up the money he has set up in various Swiss banks through an intermediary. But when this “banker” is unable to produce all the money, the violence escalates. Unknown to Frank, he and his entire organization are being wire tapped by the Royal Canadian police. This is a mission destined to fail, however, because Frank has insiders at the police, and more importantly, within the Ministry.

Marc-André Grondin as Vince (L) and Donny Falsetti as Giaco (R) in “Mafia, Inc.” Photo courtesy of Les Films Séville.

As the screws tighten and the stakes, already high, increase, rivalries intensify and betrayals multiply and the death toll mounts. This is not a film for the squeamish.

Podz keeps the film moving and even when it occasionally stumbles it is only briefly. The acting, full of performers little known in the U.S. but with excellent international credits, is terrific.

Marc-André Grondin as Vince is as complex as he is complicated; he is clearly disturbed. Grondin captures the vulnerability that is mixed with his sociopathy to the extent that at first it is impossible to believe the things he’s done and what he is capable of doing.

Sergio Castellitto, Frank Paternò, chillingly portrays the gangster as modern day businessman. Slippery, suave, murderous, he is both the old world gentleman and vicious killer who never dirties his own hands. Gilbert Sicotte, Henri, is a man perplexed, losing the anchor that stabilizes him. He had long ago abandoned his son Vincent to the Paternò family and the desperation in his eyes is evident when he realizes that he may also lose his daughter.

Mylène Mackay as Sofie will truly surprise you, but that would be a spoiler. Just let it be said that the signs are there from the beginning. Donny Falsetti as the violent and resentful Giaco Paterno, is the weakest of all the performers. Some of it is in the writing, much in the direction, but he never becomes a truly three-dimensional character.

I’ve always loved gangster flics, from Jimmy Cagney movies to “The Godfather” and beyond. If you can handle the multiple murders, always conducted as violently as imaginable, then this is a film for you. It may not be Coppola or Scorsese, but Podz has taken a good story and given it legs.

Maybe the Canadians aren’t so nice after all.

In Italian, French Canadian, and English with subtitles.

Premiering February 19 on Virtual Cinema, VOD, and Digital platforms

 

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Written by: Neely Swanson

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