Brooklyn Rules

2007, Movie, R, 99 mins


Alec Baldwin's performance as a sleek, ruthless small-time Mafioso drives this coming-of-age drama, in which first kisses are less important than first guns, first corpses and the first time you saw some guy get his ear cut off with a deli-meat slicer.

Michael Turner (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Carmine Mancuso (Scott Caan) and Bobby Canzoneri (Jerry Ferrara, of TV's Entourage) have known each other since they were kids in Brooklyn. Now it's the mid-1980s, and their paths are starting to diverge. Slick, preening clotheshorse Carmine never wanted anything except to be a made man, and spent his teens trying to impress Ceasar Manganaro (Baldwin), a mid-level cog in the Gambino family operation. Michael is the serious one who kept his nose clean and plans to get out of the neighborhood: He's been accepted at Columbia University in "the city" and intends to be a lawyer. Chubby, religious, sweet-natured Bobby just wants to get a decent job and marry his high-school sweetheart. But they're all bound to the neighborhood by the things they've seen – like the dead man they discovered when they were kids, slumped in a convertible abandoned in a deserted patch of trees near the river. Pragmatic Michael took the gun in the glove compartment, softie Bobby adopted the adorable beagle puppy whining on the backseat and image-conscious Carmine swiped a fancy lighter and a pack of cigarettes. Now Carmine has finally gotten in with Ceasar, Bobby is preparing for his wedding and waiting for the results of his civil-service test – if he passes, he can snare a steady gig at the post office – and Michael is dating Connecticut society girl Ellen (Mena Suvari), who gets a big kick out of flirting with danger in the form of a guy from one of the outer boroughs but doesn't have the stomach for real street violence. Things start to go wrong when Carmine beats the hell out of a low-level thug from a rival family and hauls Michael into the fight, straining the delicate truce between New York's crime families, a truce already stressed by rumors that jockeying within the Gambino family is going to trigger an all-out mob war sometime in the very near future.

Director Michael Corrente and screenwriter Terence Winter (a longtime writer on TV's The Sopranos) don't miss a cliché, but they spin them smartly. Baldwin dominates the screen with his slick, beefy swagger, and if Prinze is less than convincing as a kid from Brooklyn, Caan and Ferrara nail Carmine and Bobby with such assured economy that it hardly matters they're one-note roles. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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