The real Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, and Frank Costello were four ugly-mug Lower East Side rough boys who learned to live with each other, amassed an empire based on bootlegging, narcotics, gambling, and protection money, and became kings of the New York streets. In Mobsters, a laughably vacant gangster movie, the famous organized criminals are portrayed by some of Hollywood's hottest young male stars - Christian Slater (Heathers, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) as Luciano, Patrick Dempsey (Loverboy, Coupe De Ville) as Lansky, Richard Grieco (TV's 21 Jump Street, If Looks Could Kill) as Siegel, and Costas Mandylor (Triumph of the Spirit, Soapdish) as Costello.
If the real McCoys ever met their cinematic counterparts, four guys would end up dead. And don't put your money on the glamour boys.
The producers of Mobsters have already come clean with the admission that their film is little more than beefcake, and that reduces the expectations somewhat. But even hopes of a slam-bang pin-up festival - cheap thrills and easy on the mind - are dashed after the first few minutes of this worthless, insipid failure.
Mobsters wastes no time in whittling the foursome down to stereotypes, pigeonholing them in characterizations narrow enough to be mastered even by America's hottest young male stars. Luciano is the charismatic leader, Lansky his brainy right-hand man, and Costello and Siegel mindless hulks, good for furnishing muscle and little else. Right from its opening scenes, uninspired sequences that show the boys growing up in New York amid a world of crime and corruption, first-time screenwriter Michael Mahern digs himself a hole and then can't get out. Much is made of the unusual mutual tolerance of the foursome - two Jews (Lansky and Siegel) collaborating with two Italians (Luciano and Costello) in a city where ethnic territoriality was the rule. But with the exception of Slater's insistence that he's Italian and Dempsey's corresponding insistence that he's Jewish, there's little evidence of any ethnicity.
Apparently blinded by the supernova shallowness of the script, director Michael Karbelnikoff comes completely unhinged, sacrificing the main narrative whenever possible. In what might be the worst directorial embarrassment of the year, he runs through an impressive check list of cinematic gaffes - forced and clumsily "stylish" slow-motion dialogue sequences, arty montage inserts meant to compress large areas of plot (as if there are large areas of plot). Karbelnikoff's bag of tricks, stuffed full of mediocrity, should be heaved heartily into the dumpster.
The passengers, the hot young prospects themselves, are every bit as wretched as this rickety vehicle. Although Slater and Dempsey at least cast a shadow, they show no flair, no charm, no intelligence, and Grieco and Mandylor are merely invisible. Twin Peaks's Lara Flynn Boyle reeks anorexic and little else as Mara Motes, Luciano's fly-brained, flapper girlfriend. Not content to limit its defamation of character to the younger generation, Mobsters also squanders F. Murray Abraham as Jewish gangster Arnold Rothstein (the man who fixed the 1919 World Series) and British actor Michael Gambon (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover) as an older-generation don. Only Anthony Quinn, who is enjoying somewhat of a revival this summer with his role in Jungle Fever, holds down the fort here, as the portly, wheezing Don Masseria.
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The Point Break of gangster films, this is a movie made for aliens who require only the most superficial treatment of life on Earth. In their day, if they were forced into a theater to watch this movie, the real-life gangsters likely would have dispatched hulking goons to ice the cast and crew. Now they have to be content to spin in their graves. And spin they will.
Directed by Michael Karbelnikoff; written by Michael Mahern and Nicholas Kazan; with Christian Slater, Patrick Dempsey, Costas Mandylor, Richard Grieco, Lara Flynn Boyle, F. Murray Abraham, Michael Gambon, Anthony Quinn, Nicholas Sadler, and Titus Welliver.
Now playing at major theaters in Dade and Broward counties.