Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

This is SPOILER stuff so don’t bother reading any further if you want to be surprised by what transpires in the coming of age Mob themed flick “Brooklyn Rules”.  As our narrator, Michael Turner Jr. (Freddie Prinze Jr.), narrates the story, he introduces us to some kids he describes as his lifelong friends. There is Carmine who will grow up to be played by Scott Cann and is described by Michael as a loyal and tough but incredibly vain.  Michael describes himself as soulless, duplicitous but very ambitious and lastly there is Bobby (Jerry Ferrara) who he describes as religious, thrifty to a fault but the absolute sweetest guy you’ll ever want to meet.  Bobby, as they grow into young men, is a bit slow, but funny, loyal to his one girlfriend and is just working hard to buy her an engagement ring.  I’m thinking to myself as ‘Brooklyn Rules’ plays out ‘Surprise me little movie and allow the pleasant, slow, friendly loyal fat guy to live’.  Because anybody whose watched any movie ever knows that Bobby has ‘Dead Meat’ – to quote the movie ‘Hot Shots’ written all over him.  Surprise me ‘Brooklyn Rules’.  Well there is no surprise to be had as  Bobby didn’t make it, lying in the street babbling about something or another while his two homies beg him to hold on.  There was very little in ‘Brooklyn Rules’ that was surprising, innovative, fresh or imaginative but it was crisply directed and it did have Alec Baldwin in it who has yet to deliver a poor performance since he transformed himself from the leading man and turned into the funny fat guy.

The film takes place in Brooklyn (obviously) during the mid-eighties around the time when Dapper Don John Gotti was rising to mob prominence and Big Paul Costellano was about to check out.  Michael is certainly no prince, but he is loyal to his friends and a student down at the local U with hopes of getting into law school and getting out of the neighborhood.  Carmine on the other hand seems drawn to the life and mob

captain Caesar Manganaro (Baldwin) has taking a liking to the brash young man.  While at school, as is atypical in films such as these, Michael meets a spoiled, sheltered but sweet rich girl from the plush side of the tracks named Ellen (Mena Suvari) and the two take tenuous steps to forming a relationship.  Also as is typical in films such as these, there is a rift between Michael and his boys as he seems to want to keep his college world and his neighborhood world separate.  However the film does do a fine job in letting the audience know where Michael’s loyalties lie as Ellen’s sees Michael in his true element in a fateful confrontation with a mob thug at the local eatery.

Time passes, boy loses girl, Dead Meat buys his girl a ring, Caesar cuts of a dudes ear in a meat grinder, mob bosses get blasted, boy gets girl back and with Bobby having his engagement ring in his pocket and waiting till midnight to flip a coin to decide whether Michael or Carmine will be his best man, his fate is sealed.  Actually, the poor dudes fate was sealed the minute screenwriter Terence Winter turned on his word process and typed EXT.  CHURCH – DAY.

Less ‘Goodfellas’ and more along the lines of ‘A Bronx tale’, ‘Brooklyn Rules’, as stated earlier, is a fairly derivative tale lifting bits and pieces from various other films to cobble together a fairly entertaining, if not a completely original coming of age story.  Director Michael Corrente does a fine job keeping the story moving and making the albeit contrived story line seem fresher than it has any right to be.  He also manages his actors well with Scott Caan, obviously stepping into some mighty, mighty large shoes as a guy named Caan playing a brash, impetuous, hot headed mobster type.  But to the younger Caan’s credit, not once did Sonny Corleone cross my mind while watching ‘Brooklyn Rules’.  Alec Baldwin is Alec Baldwin doing the damn thing whether it’s in this flick, or on ’30 Rock’ or on ‘Entertainment Tonight’ threatening his wife and kids on the answering machine, he’s awesome.  Faring less well is Prinze’s Michael, but not in Prinze’s performance itself, but in the fact that he’s supposed to be this less than grand individual who steals from collection plates and is an overall untrustworthy character.  Freddie Prinze Jr. just comes across as such a nice, sweet boy that it’s hard to see him that way, and he doesn’t really pull off the future lawyer scheister type.  The little kid that played Michael actually seems a more scurrilous character than Prinze playing Michael. 

‘Brooklyn Rules’ isn’t a bad film by any stretch, and it even has moments which are almost inspired and it even has its fair share of humor.  But it just isn’t a terribly original movie and doesn’t really add much to the whole period based coming of age drama genre.  But as an aside, being a child of the 80’s, it had some fantastic music and I can’t be too mad at the movie about that.

Real Time Web