Daniel Grou/ USA/ 2020/ 143 min
Families can be rough, especially those who work together. And no family ‘business’ is complete without a few bust-ups, a wedding, and what else? Contracted hits. Adapted from André Cédilot and André Noël’s book concerning a Sicilian crime syndicate family in Canada, Mafia Inc. gradually draws out an old-fashioned crime flick in a refreshing setting. The dark streets of America or the warming countryside of the old country are exchanged for the quiet suburban neighbourhoods of Montreal.
Frank Paterno (Sergio Castellitto) buys his suits from the same place for over forty years, and without a loose thread or blemish to their name, he had no intention of stopping his friendship with Henri Gamache (Gilbert Sicotte). That is until Paterno promotes Gamache’s son above his own within the crime syndicate family. Jealousy, trade-offs, and loose lips slowly unravel Paterno’s empire, but the cascading embers are likely to burn the fingers of those getting too close.
Honour holds a central place in these films, and there’s no difference here as lines are crossed as the Gamache family turn their back on their former son, igniting a war as loose cannons are left to their own devices. While not entirely predictable, aspects do play out in familiar avenues of the genre, and though the wrapping may look different, the contents are much the same.
Marc-André Grondin as the bombastically shunned Vince delivers a thoroughly unhinged catalyst to the downfalls of various characters, but Daniel Grou’s daunting direction makes Grondin too cartoonish in the way he holds himself. In stark contrast (designed this way) Donny Falsetti is calm, precise, and far more chilling in his command of the family’s influence than his former friend.
Time is taken to establish links across the large cast, and while some begin to bloat the film, heads of their respective families Castellitto and Sicotte serve such authenticity for the old ways of handling things. Their conversations, and brief but intimidating grasps of power echo with a silent appreciation of two men at the height of their achievements. Dipping into French, Italian and English, it adds scope to Sylvian Guy’s writing in how wide a circle of influence the men conduct themselves.
Opulent; the riches of the family emerge in drips rather than lavish exposures. Weddings, festivities, and business matters offset the symbolic powerhouse the family hold in comparison to the slums and warehouses on which these riches are built. The analogy of the importance of a fine suit from a trusted tailor evoke precisely the expected dialogue one expects from a crime thriller, and every syllable of his delivery is sold in droves by Castellito.
Steve Cosens opens up the camera, pushing for close-ups only where the intensity or discomfort is palatable. The cinematography is clean, avoiding grime and the expected greys of a crime film, instead, embracing whites to strike against the sporadic uses of crimson violence – all counter-balanced to the precise measurements of a well-fitting soundtrack from Laurence Lafond-Beaulne, Camille Poliquin and Joseph Marchand.
Primed, loaded and with a steady hand Mafia Inc. aims to deliver a gripping, old-school gang flick. But the trigger is never fully pulled. Respect must be earned, and Grou garners some for his impressive film. Its refusal to pander to traditionally trudged paths in the genre is to be admired – even for the shortfalls. There are no horses heads, no ‘whacking’ and though the comedy certainly will ‘amuse you’, Mafia Inc. grounds itself in a contemporary realism in both the grandeur of crime families, and the humbleness of tailors.
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