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Rob the Mob Blu-ray Review

Rob the Mob (2014) movie poster Rob the Mob

Theatrical Release: March 21, 2014 / Running Time: 104 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Raymond De Felitta / Writers: Jonathan Fernandez

Cast: Michael Pitt (Tommy Uva), Nina Arianda (Rosemarie "Rosie" De Toma), Andy Garcia (Alfonse "Big Al" Fiorello), Ray Romano (Jerry Cardozo), Griffin Dunne (Dave Lovell), Michael Rispoli (Sal), Yul Vasquez (Vinny Gorgeous), Frank Whaley (Agent Fred Hurd), Samira Wiley (Agent Annie Bell), Brian Tarantina (Ronnie), Aida Turturro (Anna De Toma), Matthew Blumm (Marco De Toma), Luke Fava (Robbie), Burt Young (Joseph "Joey D" DeLuisa), Cathy Moriarty-Gentile (Constance Uva), Jeremy Allen White (Robert Uva), Adam Trese (Assistant Director Ryan), Garry Pastore (Sammy Gravano), Bruce Altman (Gotti Prosecutor), Bill Raymond (Priest)

Buy Rob the Mob from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD Instant Video

Following the 2010 comedy City Island, whose $6.7 million gross from 269 theaters stands as the best showing in the 7-year history of Anchor Bay Films, writer-director-producer Raymond De Felitta goes back to simply directing and producing on Rob the Mob.

Set in early 1990s pre-Giuliani New York, this film centers on Tommy (Michael Pitt) and Rosie (Nina Arianda), a young Queens couple in love and short on cash. We open with Tommy robbing a flower shop at gunpoint on Valentine's Day, an act that lands him in prison for a few months. During that time, Rosie gets a job at a collections agency and secures another for Tommy, her easygoing boss Mr. Lavell (Griffin Dunne) having a soft spot for second chances, being a blue-collar ex-con himself.

Rosie De Toma (Nina Arianda) and Tommy Uva (Michael Pitt) are like the early '90s version of Bonnie and Clyde in the true crime story "Rob the Mob."

Tommy reluctantly takes the job, until one day when he skips work to attend the high-profile criminal trial of mafia kingpin John Gotti. That experience and the paltry paycheck from the collections agency encourage Tommy to return to crime. He somehow acquires an Uzi, which Rosie shows him how to assemble, and then uses it to commit an unbelievably brazen act:
robbing the social clubs run by alleged organized criminals. The Italian-Americans inside are not armed, giving the not too bright Tommy the upper hand. He not only robs these hardened hoods of their cash, jewelry and expensive shoes, he also embarrasses by making them strip down to their underwear and lie atop one another. Rosie waits outside, the getaway driver.

An FBI agent (Frank Whaley) surveilling one of these mob establishments overhears the second such heist and passes the story and a photograph to longtime crime reporter Jerry Cardozo (Ray Romano), who turns it into an obvious front page story about a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. That unflattering exposure prompts the targeted crime family's head, Alfonse Fiorello (Andy Garcia), still mourning the death of his son years ago, to mount up a response, which becomes more an act of desperation when it is learned that the seemingly least fruitful of robberies has yielded a list of names and phone numbers of every key figure in the crime syndicate.

Before our eyes, this trashy, ill-mannered, not so attractive couple becomes unlikely heroes, invaluable to a major ongoing criminal investigation.

Andy Garcia channels his "Godfather III" director Francis Ford Coppola with the dignified white beard he sports as crime boss Alfonse Fiorello. Contacted by Rosie with corrections, senior newspaper crime reporter Jerry Cardozo (Ray Romano) offers to be the one to tell Rosie and Tommy's story.

Working with a screenplay by "Star Trek: Enterprise" story editor Jonathan Fernandez, De Fellita infuses the film with comedic moments that often miss the mark. At the same time, the director supplies some of the working class authenticity that distinguished City Island and made it a minor word-of-mouth hit. Despite the title and subject matter, Rob the Mob maintains levity,
staying sweet and somehow feel-good until blindsiding us with an unhappy ending taken from real life. It's kind of like a much lesser American Hustle, but one that sees the true story through to decreased viewer satisfaction.

De Fellita manages to give us a drama involving crime that doesn't feel anything like a crime drama. No one gets shot or hurt for the majority of runtime and Rosie even disputes that what she and Tommy are doing could be considered crime (no one is calling the cops, after all).

The director draws some really good performances from his cast. Garcia, embracing old age with a white beard, maybe hasn't been this good since The Godfather Part III, a role recalled in his loving arancini cooking demonstration given to his grandson. Dunne feels like he could have walked over from the set of The Wolf of Wall Street without dropping character. His funny, scene-stealing turn announces he's ready to work with Scorsese again. Romano impresses as the moral compass, revealing evident dramatic talent in a rare live-action film credit. Arianda is appealing in a role that's likely to be one of her juiciest. Pitt, a subversive indie guy Hollywood could be on the verge of forgetting, makes for a capable leading man.

Performing about as well as it could from a theater count that maxed out at 30 last spring, Rob the Mob came to Blu-ray and DVD this week from Millennium Entertainment.

Rob the Mob Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Cropped Widescreen
Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($28.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Rob the Mob suffers from just one visual flaw, but it is major enough to diminish this entire Blu-ray release. The film opens in 2.40:1, its obvious original aspect ratio, but switches to 1.78:1 after the opening credits. Ever seen a movie do that before? Sure, you have, if you've watched a movie on television. Millennium has cropped the remainder and majority of this widescreen film to a 16:9 screen-filling ratio. This is not the studio's first time doing that: I've suspected as much of their Blu-rays and DVDs of Charlie Countryman, As I Lay Dying, and Killing Season, based on the wider trailers accompanying the film. This time, there can be no doubt, not with plainly cropped shots in which little more than characters' noses make it into the frame. I can understand why Millennium might be engaging in this practice; 1.78:1 TV broadcasts of wider films must be pretty common in this HDTV age. But it still amounts to indefensible pan and scan, a VHS staple that largely disappeared from home video around the middle of last decade (around the time that VHS itself did). I can't believe that recognition and disapproval of Millennium's cropping doesn't extend much further than my reviews and that filmmakers like De Felitta either don't notice or don't care that their movies are being misframed on disc.

Aside from that unfortunate and unacceptable decision, the Blu-ray's transfer is most satisfactory, cleanly and sharply presenting the film's warm, sunny photography. The disc's default Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is also strong, with dialogue, music and effects finding and maintaining a nice, even balance. Apart from the opening credits use of Deee-Lite's "Groove Is in the Heart", De Fellita forgoes period tunes and doesn't seem to concern himself too greatly with getting the early '90s fashion or slang right.

Fun ex-con boss Dave Lovell (a scene-stealing Griffin Dunne, right) appears at the start of one of the Blu-ray's three deleted scenes. Mafiosos sheepishly make their way outside, stripped down to their underwear on the "Rob the Mob" Blu-ray menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The film is accompanied by three bonus features. First and foremost is an audio commentary by director Raymond De Felitta. He proves to be both a passionate storyteller and an engaging speaker. He talks about the 26-day production, the setting of early-'90s New York (crediting Steven Soderbergh with picking "Groove Is in the Heart"), casting actors known for New York movies,

encouraging improvisation, not stressing continuity, making a period film on a low budget, having to go back to shoot New York at Christmastime for the ending, cutting out Aida Turturro, Garcia modeling his look after the present-day Francis Ford Coppola (something that becomes apparent after hearing it), and his influences. Knowledgeable and personable, De Felitta talks through the start of the end credits with very few lulls. If he is watching the same compromised 1.78:1 presentation that we get, he doesn't mention it.

Three deleted scenes are presented in 2.40:1 high definition and have to be selected individually. The first (6:13) sees the collections agency taking an outing to rainy Coney Island, instead of Atlantic City as planned. The partly-improvised second (7:35) extends Rosie and Tommy's meeting with Ray Romano's crime reporter, allowing Tommy to explain his personal reasons for going after the mob. Then, we get to meet Rosie's mother (Aida Turturro) and brother (4:02) in two different circumstances, an uproarious post-florist robbery confrontation and a mostly calm Christmas Eve meal. For deleted scenes, these are unusually meaningful.

Finally, Rob the Mob's theatrical trailer (2:17, SD) joins the disc-opening ones -- for Fading Gigolo, Charlie Countryman, Parts Per Billion, and Life of a King -- in a Previews menu. Millennium is great about including original trailers, although these are typically the best tip-off when 2.40:1 films are being cropped in the feature presentation.

The menu plays clips amidst smoking bullet holes to soothing score. This Region A Blu-ray does not support bookmarks or resume playback.

The keepcase is topped by a plain slipcover featuring the same artwork, but holds no inserts, as no digital copy is included.

Tommy (Michael Pitt) is wished a Happy Valentine's Day upon exiting the florist he just robbed in the film's opening scene.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Rob the Mob holds one's interest with its slightly unconventional presentation of a fascinating true crime story. Though comedically flat, the film does feature a number of strong performances from a solid cast.

Millennium's Blu-ray provides strong picture and sound plus a nice handful of extras with one glaring problem of cropping the film from its original aspect ratio. Given the lack of clamor the practice has generated, it's unfortunately doubtful we get a corrected edition anytime soon or ever.

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Raymond De Felitta: City Island
New: 25th Hour & He Got Game Devil's Knot Winter's Tale 300: Rise of an Empire Parts Per Billion Gambit
Michael Pitt: Seven Psychopaths The Village | Nina Arianda: Win Win Midnight in Paris | Cathy Moriarty: Runaway Daughters
Andy Garcia: The Godfather Part III At Middleton New York, I Love You | Griffin Dunne: Dallas Buyers Club Last Night
Burt Young: Rocky Chinatown Back to School | Michael Rispoli: Pain & Gain Magic City: The Complete First Season
American Hustle The Wolf of Wall Street The Iceman All Is Bright Bonnie & Clyde (2013)
Pawn Kill the Irishman 30 Minutes or Less Killing Them Softly

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Reviewed June 26, 2014.



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