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10th & Wolf

By David DiCerto
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- "10th & Wolf" (THINKFilm) is a second-tier crime drama that plays like yet another pale retread of "The Godfather" and "Good Fellas."

The movie is inspired by the real-life undercover exploits of FBI Special Agent Joseph D. Pistone, on whom the film "Donnie Brasco" was based as well.

The title refers to the South Philly intersection to which young Marine Sgt. Tommy Santoro (James Marsden) returns after serving in the first Gulf War.

Facing time in a military prison for assaulting an officer, Tommy, strong-armed by a federal agent (Brian Dennehy), reluctantly agrees to turn mole for the FBI in investigating the drug dealings of his loose-cannon cousin, Joey (Giovanni Ribisi) -- a small time racketeer -- and a cold-blooded Sicilian mobster muscling his way into the neighborhood.

In return for helping them nab the thug and his big-fish bosses in Sicily, the feds promise to go easy on Joey.

Tommy is eventually dragged back into the violent life of organized crime he joined the military to escape. But while he resists re-entering the family business, his real inner conflict has more to do with his guilt over betraying Joey's trust, and that of his own man-child brother, Vincent (Brad Renfro), who works for Joey against Tommy's wishes.

The three talented young actors are all solid, but their performances lack a certain maturity. At times, it feels as if you're watching kids playacting gangsters with Ribisi almost doing an impersonation of Robert De Niro.

Veterans Lesley Ann Warren and Dennis Hopper have underdeveloped roles as Joey's mom and mob boss uncle who had an ongoing adulterous affair. Val Kilmer has a extraneous cameo as a drunken patron at a seedy strip club, and Dash Mihok's one-legged goon is the film's most vicious turn.

Unfortunately, director Robert Moresco recycles cliches and fails to add anything new to the genre.

The troubling violence and expletive-laced tough talk are par for the regrettable course in movies of this ilk. But of greater concern are the pervasive cynicism and the fact that the "good guy" FBI agents operate on a moral plane just slightly higher than the crooks.

Still, Moresco does not glamorize gangsters and shows that there is no honor among thieves. For most of the film, Tommy remains "in" Joey's world but not "of it," voicing protest against his cousin's actions at several points. But blood proves thicker than moral misgivings as Tommy joins Joey in exacting costly revenge on the Sicilian hoods.

Near the close, Joey wistfully wonders what his life would have been like if he took a different path at a critical juncture. But the regret passes too quickly and, in the end, to paraphrase "The Godfather," he takes the gun and leaves the conscience.

The film contains recurring strong violence, including graphic shootings, knifings, beatings and a garroting, a fleeting sexual image, an adultery theme, several scenes in a strip club with some partial nudity, drug content and pervasive rough and crude language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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DiCerto is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.


Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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