Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Well wasnít this a pleasant surprise.  ĎAmerican Cousinsí was released in an extremely limited fashion four years ago to little or no fanfare, and as such I had never heard of the thing.  It has just recently been released to DVD, and considering the stuff that get shoveled down our throats masquerading as entertainment, this was one little enjoyable movie.  Though not perfect, it has flown completely under the radar and I was surprised I even managed to stumble across it.

American mobsters Gino (Danny Nucci) and Settimo (Dan Hedeya) are in Kiev pulling off some deal that mobster tend to do.  You know the deal, dark rooms, briefcases, people with heavy coats and sunglasses looking suspiciously at each other.  Also as it tends to happen in these deals, there is a double cross, guns a pulled and people die.  Fortunately for this film to continue on, Gino and Settimo werenít those people but now they have big trouble.  They have to try to get out of Kiev alive, but things are so hot back in Jersey they canít go back there.  Their boss, Tony (Vincent Pastore), books them a flight to Scotland where they have Ďfamilyí they can hide out with until the heat is off.  This family consist of fish and chips fry cook Roberto (Gerald Lepkowski), his curmudgeonly grandfather Nonno (the late Russell Hunter) and Robertoís assistant manager Alice (Shirley Henderson).

Roberto has his own problems as a Scottish mobster wants his shop to build a casino or something, and heís been secretly in love with the recently divorced Alice for years.  His mob cousins complicate things a bit since Gino seems to be charming Alice, but all in all, these are really good guys who just occasionally have to shoot people.

Of course, you can imagine, the search for Gino and Settimo will eventually lead back to restaurant but somehow I think that this will all work out for the best for all with family being redefined, and turning out stronger than one could ever imagine.

Is ĎAmerican Cousinsí predictable?  Painfully so.  Is it sappy?  Oh yes.  Is it original?  Not even a little bit.  Is it entertaining?  Hugely.  The actors in this film are so likable, and at ease with their characters that itís almost impossible not be smitten with them.  All of them.  The dialog is fresh and witty and delivered with razor sharpness.  Some of the simple situations that they find themselves in, such as Gino learning to properly fry fish and French fries or Settimo casually offering to get involved with Robertoís mob problems, but only with his permission, just to name a few all had an easy going, breezy realism to them. 

Director Don Coutts seemed to take a hands off approach to this little movie, preferring to simply stay out his accomplished casts way and let their natural charm carry the film as opposed to a lot of fancy cuts, obscure and obtuse camera angles which results in the movie being all the better for it. 

Sure there are quite a few predictable moments in the film and the ending sequence seems like something out of ĎDie Hardí more so than keeping in tone with the rest of the movie, but that doesnít do much tarnish what this film has the most of, and thatís heart.  Itís just a really sweet film, tinged with a little tragedy and winning performances.  Normally Iíd single out a particular actor or actress, but believe me when I tell you that the five leads where all outstanding and by themselves made this a film worth seeing. 

Not the most original movie of recent years, but certainly one of the sweetest and most entertaining films Iíve had the opportunity to see.  ĎAmerican Cousinsí comes highly recommended.

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