Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Robert Moresco, one of the screenwriters for the highly celebrated film ‘Crash’, tosses his pen aside, well, after he finished writing this movie, and puts on the directors cap in his directorial debut ‘10th and Wolf’, an engaging, if not a terribly original fresh take on the world of gangsters. Can you say run-on-sentence? Hell, I should hire Robert Moresco to re-write that sentence, that is if there wasn’t a writers strike going on right now. So in a situation like this does writer Moresco picket director Moresco? Hmmm… rambling thoughts from a man with a rambling mind.

Our gangster flick starts in Iraq where Tommy (James Mardsen) narrates about his hero, his father, who he would find out at a young age killed people for a living for mafia boss Matty Matello (Dennis Hopper). Disillusioned, as soon as was legally able, Tommy ran off to the Army to join up with an even bigger mob and fight in the first gulf war. Not being one for too much authority and also a bit upset at the way the war was going, Tommy whoops up on some asshole officer landing himself in the brig and looking at little time in a military prison. Enter special agents Howarth (Brian Dennehy) and Thornton (Leo Rossi) who have a little deal for the son of the late mob captain. While Tommy’s been away his cousin Joey (Giovanni Ribisi) has gotten deep into the business of the mob to which Tommy barely bats an eye over. However when Howarth informs Tommy that his borderline mentally challenged younger brother Vincent (Brad Renfroe) will also be taking the fall, now Tommy is ready to listen and reluctantly becomes a plant for the pair of due-process bypassing agents.

Back home Tommy sees that Joey is now running a club along with his pathologically violent partner Junior (Dash Minok) who has made pouty young mother Brandy (Piper

Perabo) a widow by beating her husband to death with his club leg. Though that’s sad for Brandy, it’s good for Tommy because now he has a love interest. All that aside, there are some mobsters in town from the old country who Joey is none too happy with because they killed his Uncle Matty, but these guys have a business going on that proves mighty lucrative for Joey, Vincent, and a reluctant Tommy. But as you might imagine with these agents in one corner, the hyper violent Italian mob in another, his crazy cousin in another corner and his unstable brother in another corner… And his girlfriend in another corner, yes I know five corners, but there’s conflict here people so lets just say his girl is in a corner in another room, All hell is about to break loose and not everybody goings make it out when the smoke clears.

As you can see Robert Moresco has loaded his film with plot and subplot galore and that doesn’t even take into account mobster Matty’s affair with Joey’s mom Alice (Leslie Ann-Warren) which further complicates matters. But despite all of this exposition and drama, never does ‘10th & Wolf’ come off us unwieldy, overly melodramatic or confusing. I suppose as writer and director Moresco knew exactly how to plot his script, and know what parts went where which keeps his movie moving at a relatively brisk pace and also keeps the various subplots in order. Though admittedly this isn’t always the case for a lot of writer / directors, so I suppose there is something to be said for having talent. James Mardsen fares well in the lead role of the conflicted Tommy who is doing wrong trying to do right, though Mardsen may suffer some from having too much of a matinee idol look to be completely believable as a street mob kid. Giovanni Ribisi is an acquired taste as an actor as his staccato rhythms in delivery and motion can be a bit off putting at times, but for the most part he was cast well as the do first, think second crazy cousin. Naturally Brian Dennehy doesn’t need me or anybody else to tell him how to play an Angry White Male Filled with Burning Hostility for the World. Why else do you think they cast him to play basketball coach Bobby Knight? Piper Perabo’s character was almost a complete throwaway and seemed to be just a way squeeze a pretty young woman in the film, and I should mention Val Kilmer’s almost totally worthless cameo as the father of deceased war vet, who is only in the film so Tommy could make nice with Perabo’s character who didn’t need to be in the film anyway.

‘10th and Wolf’ has a great washed out cold look to it, as Pittsburgh doubles well for Philadelphia, and as we have stated the film at no point gets boring. There’s not a lot going underneath all the subplots as far as I could tell, but then there so much happening on the surface of this film, trying to make it deeper would have just made my head hurt. Admittedly the ending for the film was something out of ‘Lethal Weapon’, but even still, I enjoyed ‘10th & Wolf’ for what it was, and that was an entertaining, slickly made, popcorn entertainment that probably could have legitimately skirted its Direct to DVD release and snuck into a theater or two. I look forward to what Mr. Moresco has coming down the pipe next in his second stint in the directors chair.

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