5 Mafia Films You Need to See

I read one of those 10 Mafia Movies That Made Their Mark lists and saw not a single surprise.

Here's five Mafia films that'll surprise you -- and I mean in a good way. I have seen all of them, some once, others as many as a dozen times. From the bare-bones budgeted Wannabes to the major studio release Running Scared, these movies add technique or simple great story telling to etch their mark....

Chicago Overcoat (2009) 
When Chicago mob kingpin Stefan needs a witness eliminated, Lou volunteers for one last big job so that he can retire. The task becomes complicated, however, when younger thugs resent Lou's interference.

Great character study of has-been mobster played by the incomparable Frank Vincent. Fed up with the losers passing on the orders, he grabs his trusty "Chicago typewriter" (a Thompson submachine gun) and kicks serious ass. Vincent's last line, tossed out as a throwaway, is highly memorable...Don't want to say more and ruin this gem, destined to be a classic.

Wannabes (2000)

When brothers Angelo and Paulie get into a fight over a stick-ball game, it's broken up by the local Mafia don, the much feared and respected Santo. Later, fed up with their dead-end-jobs, the brothers and two friends abandon the 9-5 grind and decide to emulate men like Santo. They start up their own crew -- and quickly find themselves having to answer to Santo for robbing on his turf without permission.

This is about as low-end as it gets; the picture must have had a budget of about $10 and was made supposedly to serve as a platform for William Demeo, who went nowhere are far as I can see, though he did manage to nab a small recurring role on The Sopranos' last couple seasons . But the wonderful Joe Viterelli gives a fine performance as a Mafia don; he is in much of the picture, too, and he fully commits; now that he's gone you can treasure him all over again in this flick. Demeo sure scored a coup getting old Joe... There's also some pretty good scenes in the restaurant, with the two brothers joking around and doing stuff to customers' food. You'll never be nasty to a waiter or waitress again after you see this one... Also Joseph D'Onofrio, who in a tiny part played a young Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, is a trained actor and does a decent job as the spoiled mob boss's son who thinks he's entitled to the world. 

Low-level mobster Joey Gazelle is tasked with disposing of a gun used to kill cops during a drug bust. But when it's stolen by his son's friend and used in another high-profile crime, Joey must find the gun quickly -- or pay the ultimate price.

I am surprised this one didn't get more attention; the depiction of the mob is excellent in this action flick. The underrated Johnny Messner makes for a wonderfully frighteningly realistic new-generation mobster (the kickoff scene in the hotel room is one of the best gunfights you probably have never seen), while Arthur J. Nascarella is fine as the cruel mob boss. Paul Walker, who died way too young, plays the lead and you'll see again how truly gifted he was as an actor. Toss in a deliciously evil Chaz Palminteri as a crooked cop and the oh-so-delectable Vera Farmiga in one of her sexiest roles ever, and you have a damn good film....

The lives of the three Staten Island residents are entwined with tragic consequences. Parmie Tarzo is a powerful mob boss. Family man Sully Halverson is a married man and septic tank cleaner by profession. He and his wife are trying to get pregnant.

The deaf Jasper "Jas" Sabiano slices deli meat in a small shop and also works for Parmie Tarzo, using his skills to dispose of the crew's victims. Jas likes Sully and expects to one day earn his fortune at the racetrack.

One day, Sully, not a bright man, decides to rob Parmie, in order to finance the artificial insemination of his wife with "more intelligent" sperm. Meanwhile an attempt is made on Tarzo's life and he finds that his own crew is behind it. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Probably the best of the lot -- with the winning trifecta of  Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio and Seymour Cassel starring. D'Onofrio is at his best as an insane mob capo who decides he and his crew are going to take over Staten Island. For inspiration, he quotes John Gotti as his role model. Every line, every gesture, even the way his character walks adds dimension to this small well-made film, offering us a depiction of one of the most bizarre "mob bosses" you'll ever see. Hawke also is great, wearing his soul on his sleeve. He pulls a desperate act to further the potential of the baby he and his pregnant wife will soon raise. Cassel is the deaf butcher who's friendly to all his patrons (and does little favors for the mob in the back of his shop). He also finds himself playing the grim reaper at the end, when he takes it upon himself to mete out justice for a young man with whom he was good friends.

An aging Brooklyn mob boss summons his nephew Robert Monte, a Wall Street whiz kid who has been shielded from the "Family" business. The Don solicits a promise that if anything happens to him, Robert will steer his wiseguy crew legit so that they will not spend the rest of their lives in jail. Robert surrenders a reluctant promise. When his uncle dies suddenly, Robert transforms the mob social club into a real estate office and struggles to navigate the mob crew into legitimate careers. Meanwhile, a gorgeous FBI agent named Julie Capp works feverishly to build RICO indictments against Robert and his crew who just can't help reverting to their old-school hoodlum ways. In the scramble, Robert and Julie find themselves fiercely attracted to one another. Will these star crossed lovers find romance? Will Robert succeed in steering his crew legit? Will Julie's RICO indictments fall? Written by Denis Hamill

This one, lacking a major star, never even made it to the big screen, and what a shame. Written by veteran crime reporter Denis Hamill, who knows his stuff, it's a hilarious romp through the underworld as a straight-up millionaire yuppie honors a promise he made to his "made" uncle who raised him and gave him the super education that made him the hotshot he became. He is going to take a crew of not very capable wiseguys and turn them into real estate brokers, the one business he can think of that runs lawfully but also like a Mafia racket! He and his crew must pay off a huge debt before it costs all their lives. And all this is happening under the eyes of a disbelieving pair of FBI agents; one is an Irish lass who's pretty hot, if I can add that. You'll see a lot of faces from the Sopranos. I liked this one so much I wrote to Denis asking why it wasn't shown in theaters, which is how I knew to write that first sentence.


  1. Not one comment huh? I just watched Overcoat again - it really is great. Tight story with tight editing, clear narrative flow and frank Vincent in full-on "better get the Fuck out of my way" mode. The ending always gives me chills.

  2. haven't seen any of these will try some and get back to you!

  3. Watched Staten Island and I agree with every line of your comments. I have a horror of mafia movies, I admit, but I saw this with caution, to see the performance of D'Onofrio, my favorite actor. Very different from what I imagined it was of such 'mafia movies'. I recommend.

  4. I have watched Overcoat and Wannabees, good movies both.Frank Vincent was really good in Overcoat.I'll have to catch the other three soon. I watch D'Onofrio in the Narrows I believe the name of the movie was, he was fantastic.

    1. Yes, I believe it did have a couple of other names when it was distributed....


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